Roberto Altmann is a Cuban painter, engraver and poet, whose excursion to the comics medium included a style and format experiment called 'Geste hypergraphique', which was published in Liechtenstein through the Centre International de Création (C.I.C.K.) in 1967.

Early life and career
Altmann was born in Havana in 1942. His father was a collector, editor and banker of Jewish origins who fled his birth country Germany and settled in Cuba in 1941. Roberto Altmann spent his childhood among the Cuban art circles, before the family moved to New York and then Vaduz in Liechtenstein. In 1962 he exhibited his paintings in Paris, where he came in touch with the Romanian-born poet and author Isidore Isou, who had founded the avant-gardistic Lettrism movement in France shortly after World War II. Lettrists were dedicated to establish a new surreal norm for all forms of art. The basic throught was that common narrative prose and pictorial expressions had worn out, and it was time for a new aesthetic. The lettrists felt that the Letter should form the basis for this synthesis between visual arts and writing. It seeped through in prose, poetry, music, film, dance, sculpting and... comics. Altmann participated in the group's magazines, exhibitions and other activities, including the founding of the magazine Ô in 1962.

Geste hypergraphique
One of his attempts at visual poetry was the experimental comic book 'Geste hypergraphique' (1967), which was described as a "hypergraphic tale in 15 chants". The book has a rather traditional panel lay-out, but the rest of the content is largely surreal and symbolic. The panels are populated by abstract creatures in a world constructed around letters and decorative motives, while their dialogues are constructed from symbols and freeform interpunction. The aim was to trigger the reader's more sensory perceptions in order to understand the eventful and complex history of the presented life form.

Later life and career
Roberto Altmann left the Lettrism movement in 1969 and ventured into other grounds. From 1971 he published Apeïros, an "utopian aperiodic", devoted to letters and symbols. He made engravings at the Lacourière-Frélaut workshop in Paris, and was appointed director of the Vaduz Center for Art and Communication, built by Cuban architect Ricardo Porro. For this institution he acquired the archives of American writer and visual artist. William Burroughs, which have since been transferred to the New York Public Library. He exhibited his own artworks in both Liechtenstein and the USA, and continues to participate in several artistic projects, including the foundation of the Magenta group with Judith Brouste and Pierre Weiss in 2004.

Similar creators of abstract comics
Although Altmann's sole comic book was original to say the least, it is nowadays largely forgotten. Other artists who have experimented with abstract comics art are for instance Maurice Rosy, Lewis Trondheim, Andrei Molotiu, Wasco and Rino Feys.

Series and books by Roberto Altmann in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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