May 25, 2013
Drawing Conclusions: The Editorial Cartoon
Posted on Oct 19, 2012
By Mr. Fish
There is street graffiti from Pompeii that complains about life’s daily grind and Grecian urns that explore the relationship between man and mythology. There are prayer books from the Middle Ages that extol the questionable virtues of succumbing to the most brutally simplistic notions of good and evil and there are “cartoons” (the origin of the term meaning preparatory drawing for a painting or piece of sculpture) from Leonardo da Vinci and Honore´ Daumier and Auguste Rodin that rejoice in human expression, delight in the poetics of anatomy and refine the art of caricature, our first emoticons.
Then there are the cartoonists from the modern age who, with pen and ink, pencil and paper, Illustrator and Photoshop, produce their work for magazines and newspapers and websites, their subject matter having mostly to do with the cultural, political and religious incongruities that we modern people find most inconsistent with what we consider to be good citizenship, fair and honest self-criticism and an uncompromising intolerance for social and civic injustice. These are cartoonists who, in the interest of advancing the ideas that they have about how best to enable communal preservation and individual freedom, will either vilify those in power, ridicule those apologists for oligarchic or theocratic or corporatocratic tribalism or will target those who, through apathy or active resistance or democratic idealism, threaten the benign and saintly work of a given power structure that they believe was devised by enlightened functionaries to save the world, advance truth and beauty and, in most circumstances, the right to turn a profit for God and country.
And, like their predecessors, these cartoonists will make diligent use of the age-old vocabulary of visual imagery and continue creating works of commentary art regardless of whether the society or the age in which they live supports, encourages or appreciates them.
And, as it’s always been, snakes everywhere will be eaten alive, bred in captivity, obliterated in nature and spared by cock-eyed optimists, and the cartoonist will be there to document the whole magnificent charade.
The exhibit for which this text was written features original work from 16 of the nation’s most celebrated editorial cartoonists working today, plus works from artists who most influence their creative process. Additionally, 54 cartoons and illustrations were chosen for their ability to arouse curiosity about the purpose of both the contemplative and jeering sides of uncensored free expression, to educate those unaware of the art form’s ancient and storied history and, finally, to inspire belief in the future of the cartoonist’s job to test and deepen the integrity of our democracy.
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