Tom tom club
On the cover of Make Time for Tom, a new book by local artist Brian Krueger, four grossly obese men are being crucified. Three are naked and screaming in blatant agony, but the fourth victim smiles blankly and obliviously. Though one of his hands is being nailed to a cross, his other hand clutches a magazine titled Tom.
“Rosie O’Donnell has a magazine,” says Krueger, “Oprah has a magazine, Rachel Ray has a magazine … why not Tom Cruise?”
To Krueger, there’s nothing more useless than a vacuous “lifestyle” magazine based on the cult of personality of some celebrity. That a magazine like that could provide a comforting distraction to a human sacrifice is just the beginning of the scathing, angry satire in Make Time for Tom. The subtitle of the book is Ruminations on Corporate Damnation. Corporations and the corporate mentality are the primary targets of Krueger’s wrath.
Krueger’s currently an art instructor at the Davidson Academy. He’s originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and spent many years in Southern California as a freelance artist and designer. As a freelancer, he “collaborated organically” with other artists, writers and filmmakers. This gave him a creative foundation in Bohemian camaraderie.
But then he moved to Reno to take a job as a graphic designer in a large corporation.
“I had to go to work for the man,” he says.
Krueger was a round peg stuck in the square hole of the corporate world.
“It’s a scary, creepy and assiduous existence,” he says. “It’s just so left-brained.”
What disturbed him the most was the complete lack of original thought.
“Every time somebody would tell a joke, it would be a quote from a sitcom. Everything’s derivative … it’s a culture of mimicry. … It pushed me into my mid-life crises a little sooner than it would have happened otherwise.”
He was able to find a small amount of comfort in two things: a regular email correspondence with his friend Bonnie Weaver, “where we were basically just bitching about our jobs,” and by making pen-and-ink drawings skewering the corporate stooges that surrounded him.
Make Time for Tom consists of 116 of these drawings, accompanied by loosely related excerpts from Krueger and Weaver’s bitter, job-hating emails.
The drawings are very tight, slam-packed and super obsessive in the attention to details. The American underground comic book tradition of R. Crumb is a clear influence, and Krueger also cites George Grosz, the early 20th century German Dada artist and social critic, as a primary artistic inspiration. Krueger would start each drawing with a grotesque head near the center of the page and then, based on what that head would suggest, he’d begin filling in the rest of the page—horrific scenes of bureaucratic torture alternating with “party scenes” of gruesome, hollow pleasures.
Though they are crafted with meticulous obsession, the drawings provoke an instant visceral reaction. (Some of the drawings are quite literally visceral—bodily fluids flow freely.) They are the necessary, cathartic artwork of someone who clearly hates his job.
Krueger describes the square, stunted, lifeless mentality of the corporate world “a CTD—a corporately transmitted disease … It’s so creepy, and it happens so slowly, you can’t yell and scream, or people would think you’re insane. Really, I’d prefer to have someone just punch me in the head.”