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Art in the 'Toon Age

March 24 - May 13, 2007

 

The Delaware Art Museum presents Art in the 'Toon Age, an exhibition of nearly 60 paintings, works on paper, and mixed-media pieces, from March 24 through May 13, 2007. This exhibition showcases artists from three generations and eight countries whose bright colors, bold linearity, and shorthand communication devices spring from the cartoon and advertising styles of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as from the post-Pop aesthetics of the later 20th century.

"Art in the 'Toon Age makes you realize what an impression cartoons have made on our collective eye," said Dr. Mary F. Holahan, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Delaware Art Museum. "You would never mistake these works for cartoons, but their lively design-and often subversive commentary-definitely come from that visual vocabulary."

The styles and subjects of Art in the 'Toon Age are individual reactions to a visual culture that has embraced comic strips, cartoons, animation, and commercial art. Commonplace imagery and standardized design have characterized these popular forms of entertainment and commerce since the early 20th century. In the 1960s, Pop art adopted many of the strategies and images of mass-produced images and transformed pop culture into high art.

Artists such as Red Grooms, Ida Applebroog, and John Clem Clarke often implied stories in their comic narratives and paralleled Pop art's use of commercial culture in the 1960s and '70s. The 1980s generation, including Luis Cruz Azaceta and Sue Williams, introduced complex themes, including political and personal ones, into their graphic style. The 1990s generation of Laylah Ali, Steve DeFrank, and others is part of a world-wide attraction to a multiplicity of cartoon styles, from Disney to anime.

Some of these artists, ranging in age from 79 to 32, are well known, while others are just beginning to gain recognition. Using spare or decorative line, brilliant or subtle color, explicit or implied story-lines, and often with provocative imagery and subversive humor, they navigate themes of social justice, personal experience, and popular culture.

Also included in the exhibition are historically relevant cartoons, comics, and anime, including works by Disney studios, R. Crumb, Stan Lee, and Otomo Katsuhiro.

This exhibition was organized by the Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University. The national museum tour was organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles.

 

Wall text from the exhibition

Art in the 'Toon Age

This exhibition was organized by the Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University. The national museum tour was organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles.

 

INTRO TEXT

Art in the 'Toon Age highlights artists from three generations and eight countries whose bright colors, bold linearity, and shorthand communication devices spring from cartoon and advertising styles of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as from the post-Pop aesthetics of the later 20th century. The styles and subjects of Art in the 'Toon Age are individual reactions to a visual culture that has embraced comic strips, cartoons, animation, and commercial art. Commonplace imagery and standardized design have characterized these popular forms of entertainment and commerce since the early 20th century. In the 1960s, Pop art adopted many of the strategies and images of mass produced images and transformed pop culture into high art.

Some of these artists, ranging in age from 79 to 32, are well known, while others are just beginning to gain recognition. Using spare or decorative line, brilliant or subtle color, explicit or implied story-lines, and often with provocative imagery and subversive humor, they adeptly navigate themes of social interaction, personal experience, and popular culture.

 

Manga

Manga, the Japanese word meaning random or whimsical pictures, refers to comics and print cartoons. Modern manga developed in Japan after World War II in a printed comic book format with characters and plots developed as parts of longer stories, making it less episodic than non-Japanese comics. The most common style emphasizes the characters' large eyes. Manga is produced mainly in black and white, except for covers and sometimes the first few pages. Now an international phenomenon, manga appears in many American newspapers.

 

Anime

Anime is a Japanese term for animation, whether hand drawn, computer generated, or a combination. Storylines, typically fictional, are aimed at boys, girls, and specific adult audiences. Characters have very large eyes, a range of hair colors, and exaggerated physical features. Emphatic gestures communicate their emotional states. Anime appears in many formats, including movies, original video, and television. Stories and characters may be original or taken from Japanese comic books. In the 1980s, anime was increasingly accepted in the mainstream and since the mid-1990s has gained popularity outside Japan.

 

Animation

Animation is a series of still drawings that, when viewed in rapid succession, gives the impression of a moving picture. At the turn of the 20th century, several animation processes had been developed. By 1915, most studios had adopted the "cel" animation process, in which drawings are made on transparent sheets (cels) which are then placed over a painted background and photographed one by one by a specialized camera. Initially, studios produced mostly animated versions of newspaper comic strips. By the mid-1920s, animation incorporated synchronized sound. In the 1930s, the artistic and technical innovations of the Walt Disney studio led to the first full length animated films. Since the 1970s, a wide variety of computer techniques, sometimes in conjunction with traditional ones, have contributed to the art and science of animation.

 

Graphic Novels

A graphic novel is a long work in comics form, usually bound in more durable materials, and sometimes with a dust jacket. The genre also encompasses collected issues of previously published comic books republished in a single large volume. Graphic novels have complex storylines rather than the episodic or serial ones of comics. The term commonly designates serious or literary themes for adults as opposed to the juvenile or humorous ones of comics and comic books. The modern form of the graphic novel became popular in the 1970s. Many are now published by mainstream publishing houses rather than comics companies.

 

Looney Tunes

Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes was inspired by Disney Studios' Silly Symphonies, cartoons in which the action was built around a musical score. Looney Tunes began its run in movie theatres in 1930, introducing color in 1943. Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd were among the primary stars, each with his own signature style of slapstick action. Subtle changes in the animation drawings created exaggerated but convincing facial expressions and impossible physical contortions.

 

Label text from the exhibition

 
Bringing Up Father, n.d.
George McManus (1882-1954)
ink on paper
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
McManus created Bringing Up Father for The New York World in 1913, satirizing the tension between a working class man catapulted to wealth by lucky gambling. McManus'masses of solid black contrast with his decorative detail, such as the checked pants in this strip. Bringing Up Father was the longest running comic in history when it last appeared in 2000.
 
 
Nancy, © 1944
Ernie Bushmiller (1905-1982)
ink on paper
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
From her debut in 1938, Nancy's helmet of hair and simple expressions and gestures have been her hallmarks. "Gag it down," said Bushmiller: his graphic style was economic and the punch line was a truism. The strip continues today, in the hands of different writers and artists. Art Spiegelman cited Bushmiller's style as an influence on his own graphic novel Maus.
 
 
Eek & Meek, © 1967
Howie Schneider (born 1945)
ink on paper
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
From 1965 to 2000, Schneider produced Eek and Meek, about the two eponymous mice who eventually morphed into people-one a pugnacious drinker in a bowler hat, the other mild and often a victim. Schneider drew both in a spare manner, rendering their cylindrical, big-eared bodies on triangular feet. A cartoon, Schneider realized early, "was a tiny, little finished piece of entertainment, and you could sell it. It was like magic."
 
 
Spider-Man, © 1974
Stan Lee (born 1922), Steve Ditko (born 1927), and John Romita (born 1930)
ink on paper
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
In the 1960s, writer and art director Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko collaboratively created Spider-Man, whose superhuman powers derived from a radioactive spider bite. A successful animation appeared in 1995, and a series of Spider-Man films has generated more cartoons and comic books. John Romita is one of several artists who followed Ditko as artist for the strip.
 
 
Felix the Cat, n.d
Pat Sullivan (1887-1933), Otto Messmer (1892-1983), and Joe Oriolo (1913-1985)
ink on paper
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
Drawn by Otto Messmer at Pat Sullivan Studios for the 1919 animated Feline Follies, Felix was animation's first superstar. He was originally rather slight but eventually changed into a rotund form, with enormous eyes, less cat-like but presumably more charming. Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse eclipsed Felix when Sullivan failed to make the transition to sound. But Felix survived in a comic strip, comic books, TV animations, and Nintendo games, drawn in later years by Messmer's assistant Joe Oriolo, and today by Oriolo's son, Don.
 
 
Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman, © 1986
George Herriman (1880-1944)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
In 1916, publisher William Randolph Hearst's affection for Krazy Kat brought a weekly black and white version of the strip to the arts section of Hearst newspapers. This readership usually disdained "the funnies" but embraced Krazy Kat. Poets and artists loved Herriman's word-play and plots, and Krazy Kat's indeterminate gender and peculiar spoken dialect. At Herriman's death in 1944, Hearst cancelled the strip rather than assign a new artist. While Herriman did not refer to his origins, other than to his New Orleans roots, today he is recognized as a person of color.
 
 
Appleseed, © 1987
Shrow Masamune (born Masanori Ota, 1961)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
The science fiction manga Appleseed, adapted to anime, video animation, and video games, originally appeared in four volumes from 1985 to 1989. It is a complex futuristic drama about a female law enforcement agent, whose good-versus-evil battles reflect Masamune's thoughts about conflicts between technology and humanity. Masamune's characters have the large eyes typical of much contemporary manga, though this feature is also characteristic of their non-Japanese counterparts, especially in Disney's animation.
 
 
Wicked Witch, 1937, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Walt Disney (1900-1966)
original production cel
Gift of Milton E. and Katharine D. Muelder, 95.13.23
 
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first successful full-length animated feature, and the first in Technicolor. Its naturalistic figures, sophisticated palette, and memorable music won critical acclaim. Gustaf Tenggren, born and trained in Sweden, was a chief illustrator among the film's 750 artists. He brought European fairy-tale motifs and a sprightly yet haunting style to the Brothers Grimm story, creating the "Old World" look that Disney wanted.
 
 
Uncle Scrooge, from "Only a Poor Old Man," © 1952
Walt Disney (1900-1966)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
"Only a Poor Old Man" marks Uncle Scrooge's first appearance as the star, rather than a secondary character, in a plot about his nephew Donald Duck. Illustrator Charles Barks rendered Scrooge as bespectacled, cranky, and miserly as his namesake.
Tin Tin in America, © 1945
Hergé (born Georges Remi, 1907-1983)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
Hergé's comic strip The Adventures of Tintin began in 1929 in Belgium and gained worldwide popularity. Tintin is a Belgian reporter whose international assignments, realistic and fantastical, have comic and ironic undertones. According to Steven Spielberg, Indiana Jones was partly inspired by Tintin. Herge's lines are uniform throughout, and are reinforced with strong color. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein used the Tintin image in their work. Floc'h is among the artists who have revived Herge's style, often referred to as "clear line."
 
 
Akira vol. 1, © 1984
Otomo Katsuhiro (born 1954)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
Katsuhiro's science fiction manga Akira, begun in Japan's bi-monthly Young Magazine, became over 2000 pages in six volumes. Akira is a common Japanese name, similar to Everyman. It signifies a crater left in a post-World War III universe and refers to the story's nihilistic viewpoint. The protagonists engage in epic conflicts of technology, terrorism, psychic powers, and the creation of a new universe, played out in cinematic, photo-realistic scenes.
 
 
Zap Comics no. 0, © October 1967
R. Crumb (born 1943)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
Probably best known for his Fritz the Cat and "Keep on Truckin'" characters, Crumb was a founder of the 1960s underground comics movement (often comix, to differentiate them from the mainstream and emphasize the X-rating). Zap featured outlandish characters and sexually explicit imagery, rendered in loose, heavy line work. Crumb cites American popular cartoons as a primary influence
 
 
RAW vol. 1 no. 1, © Fall 1980
Francoise Mouly (born 1955) and Art Spiegelman (born 1948)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
After the underground comics movement of the late 1960s faltered along with the hippie counterculture, alternative comics appeared, written and published independently. Art Spiegelman and his wife Francoise Mouly founded RAW, a large format alternative anthology. RAW featured comics, non-comic art, and prose for adult audiences. The founders hoped that this approach would overcome readers' prejudices against comics and force them to look at the work with new eyes.
 
Maus, A Survivor's Tale, © 1986
Art Spiegelman (born 1948)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, Spiegelman helped introduce both the term and the concept of graphic novel, a long work in comics form, but bound more durably on heavier stock, often with complex storylines and mature themes. A recreation of his family's experience of the Holocaust as an animal fable with Jews depicted as mice and Germans as cats, Maus has been classified variously as biography, autobiography, fiction, comic book, and history book.
 
 
Acme Novelty Library vol. 7 no. 7, © 1996
Chris Ware (born 1967)
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
Ware's Acme Novelty Library is a series of comic books, printed in different sizes and formats, in an array of styles partly influenced by Ware's favorite early-20th century cartoons, including Krazy Kat. Ware commented on his precise hand-drawing and intricate lay-outs: "I figured out this way of working by learning from and looking at artists I admired and whom I thought came closest to getting at what seemed to me to be the 'essence'of comics, which is fundamentally the weird process of reading pictures, not just looking at them."
 
 
Watchmen no. 1, © September 1986
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Michigan State University Special Collections' Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection
 
A 12-issue graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is set in 1985 in the U.S., where various superheroes confront a nuclear cataclysm. The literary symbolism, psychological complexity, and cinematic techniques complemented the comics-based format and brought the graphic novel further into general readership. Gibbons cited Norman Rockwell as one of his stylistic influences.
 
Floc'h Illustrateur, © 2000
Floc'h
MSU Collection, 2003.19
 
Jean-Claude Floc'h, whose name is of Breton origin, has collaborated with numerous writers on books ranging from mysteries to thrillers to war. His magazine illustrations include covers for The New Yorker.
 
 
Caprichos Americano (American Caprice), 1979
Valerio Adami (Italian, born 1935)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.18
 
Called by one critic "the maestro of the unadulterated line," Adami credits his pared-down imagery in limited colors within solid lines at least partly to his early experience in devising written signs for his deaf grandfather. The medallion with ship, along with birds and a suggestion of waves, imply a nautical theme. The title itself, however, may whimsically disown any particular narrative. Adami is also an advertising designer, notably for Swatch watches.
 
 
Untitled, 2000
Laylah Ali (American, born 1968)
pencil on paper
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.17.1
 
Ali concentrates on anonymous figures, cartoon-like in style but disturbing in context. These three sit with body parts floating as if in cartoon speech bubbles, in an aura of menace but with no explicit context. Ali has written that her works, which she says are often fueled by rage, and those of other African American artists of this time are the product of a generation grown up not under the weight of legal racial discrimination but in an age of ambiguous messages about race.
 
 
Untitled (from the portfolio, 10: Artist as Catalyst), 1992
Ida Applebroog (American, born 1929)
screenprint
MSU purchase, 92.39.2
 
Applebroog often adopts the frame format of comic strips. The repeated images of motionless figures suggest the monotony of everyday events, but the subtle variations imply some ongoing action. Applebroog confronts issues of political power and violence, as well as gender identity. To make a screenprint, the artist stretches a fabric screen on a frame, and blocks out areas not to be printed. Paper is placed under the screen, and ink is forced through the unblocked areas. Each color is applied separately. Screenprints are often called silkscreens, since artists originally used silk as the fabric for printing.
 
 
Hank Williams, Honky Tonk Man, 1991
Roger Brown (American, 1941-1997)
lithograph
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies
At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Brown's affinity for folk art, amusement parks, and other forms of popular imagery led him to join the Chicago Imagists. Their love of comics and advertising art furthered his own developing style. Brown's orderly cloud formations and banner folds contrast with the portrait of Williams, simplified but convincing.
 
 
Navy Pier, 1986
Roger Brown (American, 1941-1997)
color lithograph and silkscreen
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies
 
The graphic precision of the silhouettes and cloud patterns recall folk art, but the vaguely hallucinatory atmospheric effects belie the naïve style of Chicago's Navy Pier. To make a lithograph, the artist draws on a stone block with greasy ink or crayon. The stone is dampened and the ink applied with a roller, affixing to the greased image only. The image is then run through a press for transfer to paper.
.
 
Lotto: The American Dream (from the portfolio, 10: Artist as Catalyst), 1992
Luis Cruz Azaceta (American, born 1942)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies, 92.39.3
 
After his arrival in the United States from Cuba, Azaceta's early studies emphasized clear graphics and readable imagery, designed to produce marketable skills in commercial art. He forged these strengths into a personal artistic reaction to American cultural expectations. Here, lotto numbers surround two American icons, the stylish car and the inviting home. The image reflects Azaceta's consciousness of immigrants' experience that only luck can guarantee the "American dream."
 
 
Along a Twilighted Sky, from Some Poems of Jules Laforgue, 1973
Patrick Caulfield (British, 1936-2005)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.5.1
 
My life inspires so many desires!, from Some Poems of Jules Laforgue, 1973
Patrick Caulfield (British, 1936-2005)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.5.2
 
Caulfield's thick black outlines bring out the full strength of his colors and recall another aspect of his work: commercial posters, book covers, and stage sets. These two works might be considered illustrations, as their evocative titles are lines from the poetry of Jules Laforgue, a 19th century French poet, who was an early experimenter in free verse. "I tried to imagine what Laforgue might have been looking at when he thought of the poems," Caulfield said.
 
 
El Regreso del Cannibal Macrobiotics (The Return of the Macrobiotic
Cannibal), 1998
Enrique Chagoya (American, born Mexico 1953)
lithograph, woodcut, and chine collé
MSU purchase, 99.3
 
Chagoya's childhood in Mexico included visits to cultural sites and awareness of indigenous traditions. This codex, made with the same bark paper used by Mayan and Aztec ones, and read from right to left, mixes pre-Columbian and Christian imagery, interspersed with comic book characters. Noting that Euro-centric artists have incorporated indigenous styles, Chagoya refers to the "reverse anthropology" of own his work: he takes images from the dominant American culture and places them within the contexts of developing-world perspectives. Chine collé is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of paper, which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet.
 
 
Green Paint Can with Brush, 1989
John Clem Clarke (American, born 1937)
acrylic on mylar-backed canvas
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2001.22.3
 
Clarke has said that he makes his paintings seem as commercially produced as possible so as to make them more accessible: "I frequently use illustration devices, like those used in the great ads from the fifties, to help my paintings communicate. People grew up looking at commercial illustration and print advertising, so they are comfortable with it."
 
 
Piano and Metronome, 1997
Michael Craig-Martin (Irish, born 1941)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by Bessie Bandes in honor of Susan J. Bandes, 2002.14
Painting, 1999
 
Painting, 1999
Michael Craig-Martin (Irish, born 1941)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by Dr. Samuel S. Mandel and Dr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Nause by transfer, 2002.15
 
Born in Ireland and based in London, Michael Craig-Martin was a major artist of British Pop Art. He is still an influential teacher; Julian Opie, in this exhibition, was one of his students. His prints present arbitrarily-colored everyday objects, isolated in space with no references for scale or context, allowing the viewer to connect them visually or thematically. Craig-Martin also does commercial designs, including shopping bags for a British department store.
 
 
Ratu (from the portfolio, Word Suite), 1994
Roy De Forest (American, born 1930)
lithograph
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice-President for Research and
Graduate Studies, 97.8.4
 
De Forest's intent, he says, is to create "hypothetical beings, situations and worlds." Ratu is modeled on one of De Forest's dogs, or possibly one of the dingoes he raises. With elements of both abstraction and realism, De Forest imparts distinct expressions to the faces of Ratu and of the fantastical beings emerging from the earth. To make a lithograph, the artist draws on a stone block with greasy ink or crayon. The stone is then dampened. Ink is applied with a roller and affixes to the greased image only. The image is then run through a press for transfer to paper.
 
 
Van Gogh in the Tropics, 1999
Roy De Forest (American, born 1930)
woodcut and carved frame
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.35.1
 
De Forest's work retains elements of his association in the 1960s with the Funk Art movement, a California style of Pop-Art focusing on absurd images of everyday objects, and influenced by cartoons, among other popular imagery. In Van Gogh and the Tropics, people, animals, and objects somewhere in between make gestures and assume poses from comic to sinister in an ironic nod to Post-Impressionism.
 
Superstar Ken, 1999
Steve De Frank (American, born 1963)
hand-colored Lite Brite pegs on a lightbox
Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Hassam, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Funds, 2002.3
 
DeFrank's art is a combination of the mass-produced and the hand-made. While his primary medium is the Lite Brite peg, and one of his subjects is the Ken doll, he hand-paints preliminary sketches, dyes the pegs with some of the thousands of colors he has assembled, and custom-makes the light boxes. He then digitally transforms the sketches into gridded maps to guide the installation of the pegs. According to DeFrank, the Ken doll is a personification of his adolescent recognition that he is gay.
 
 
Stove Top Hat, 2000
Carroll Dunham (American, born 1949)
color woodcut on hand-molded paper
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2001.22.3
 
Dunham calls his signature character Mr. Nobody. This cartoon-like eyeless figure consists of distorted body parts and clearly expresses uncontrolled anger, but is also constrained within near-geometric forms. Dunham recognizes this human and artistic contradiction: "I know that my art exists in this kind of tension between irrational, almost goofy, things and extremely tight, formal, organized things. That tension is where I live."
In a woodcut, the design areas of a block of wood are carved away. Ink is applied to the raised areas. Woodcuts can be used with one or several colors of ink. In the resulting print, the ink often retains the texture of the wood grain.
 
 
Keep Trying, 1997
Marcel Dzama (Canadian, born 1975)
ink and watercolor on paper
MSU purchase, 2002.26.1
 
Untitled (Amputees and Bats), 2000-01
ink, watercolor, and root beer on paper
MSU purchase, 2002.26.2
 
Dzama is a founder of the Royal Art Lodge of Winnipeg, Manitoba, a collective dedicated to making puppets, videos, paintings and drawings, fanzines, costumes, dioramas, kites, and musical performances. He considers these diverse media his main influence, along with Native/Arctic Canadian art and comic artists such as Steve Ditko, who is featured in this exhibition. Dzama's quirky drawings in muted colors portray whole or partial creatures in ambiguous dream-like scenes, sometimes accompanied by short phrases which do not explain their meaning.
 
 
Daedalus and Icarus, 2000
Inka Essenhigh (American, born 1969)
screenprint, varnish
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.20
 
Described by one critic as "highbrow cartooning," Essenhigh's work does owe something to comics and popular culture. While she cites Baroque and Futurist styles as influences, she also mentions Bugs Bunny and Luke Skywalker. This subject is an ancient Greek myth. Daedalus, a master craftsman, escaped from Crete by building wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son Icarus. Ignoring his father's warning, Icarus soared too close to the sun, and when the wax melted, he fell into the sea and drowned. Essenhigh's print transforms myth to science fiction with color, energy, and space rather than narrative.
 
 
Smiling Man (self-portrait), 2001
Floc'h (French, born 1953)
acrylic on shaped wood
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.42
 
Jean-Claude Floc'h uses only his Breton last name. He is often described as a cartoonist, and has won awards in that category, but he also illustrates graphic novels and magazine covers and designs movie posters. Like Hergé, in this exhibition, Floc'h is a master of the clear line style. His minimalist wall portraits are both linear and sculptural.
 
 
10 Independents, 1972
Red Grooms (American, born 1937)
lithograph
Gift of Dr. Samuel S. Mandel, New York , 86.21.8
 
Originally a poster for a Guggenheim Museum exhibition, Ten Independents is a cartoon commentary on the art world, and includes Grooms himself in the upper left. A broad comedy of artists and museum visitors occupy the Guggenheim's spiral interior, while the bow-tied ringleader who organized the exhibition postures in the lower left. Grooms credits an early and enduring love of theater with his often spectacle-like scenes.
 
 
Extra! Extra! Read All About It!, 2002
Red Grooms (American, born 1937)
color 3-D lithograph
MSU purchase, 2003.3
 
Although Grooms is a painter, sculptor, printmaker, filmmaker, and performance artist, he is probably best known for his large-scale mixed-media installations. Extra! Extra! is a miniature version of such a scene, populated with humorously caricatured urbanites.
 
 
Untitled, 2000
Arturo Herrera (Venezuelan, born 1959)
suite of six photogravures
MSU purchase, funded in part by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.6.1-2002.6.6
 
Randomness is a major element of Herrera's work. The artist allows exhibitors to place the parts of this work any way they like. According to Herrera, the staccato rhythm and various linear styles of cartoons, and especially Disney animation, underlie many of his forms. Photogravure is a method of engraving in which the design is photographed on to a metal plate, and then etched in. Herrera's reductive photogravures invite viewers to engage their own random associative powers: "The efficacy of fragmented forms provokes various levels of corporeal and intellectual resonance. I am interested in the effect of non-linear and associative readings on the viewer"
 
 
American Noir (from the portfolio, 10: Artist as Catalyst), 1992
Jerry Kearns (American, born 1943)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 92.39.6
 
Kearns' screenprint-literally and figuratively multi-layered-combines imagery from American history and art in the thought balloon of a comic book character. The title refers to the cinematic term film noir, describing primarily 1940s and 1950s Hollywood crime dramas in black and white that centered on some moral ambiguity.
 
 
Cut Out, 1999
Jeff Koons (American, born 1955)
high gloss Fujiflex print
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.9.2
 
Loopy, 1999
Jeff Koons (American, born 1955)
high gloss Fujiflex print
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.9.1
 
One writer described Koons' paintings as "the commonplace seen in epiphany." Loopy and Cut Out are photographs of nine-foot high paintings, both typical of Koons' hyper-real magnification of images. Cartoon characters, popular foods, a carnival cut-out figure, and a historical monument coexist in apparently random, dream-like compositions. Both works showcase Koons' enjoyment of reflective surfaces and bright colors. Tellingly, the title of this series of Koons' paintings is Easyfun.
 
 
PUKA PUKA, 1999
Takashi Murakami (Japanese, born 1962)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.13.1
 
Murakami works in his own "Superflat" style, derived from manga and anime, but still uses the traditional style of Japanese painting of his early training. Computers and numerous studios assistants translate his drawings into paintings, prints, and sculptures. PUKA PUKA is a morphing form of Murakami's recurring character Mr. Dob, whose name means why in Japanese. Although much of Murakami's work is a commentary on contemporary Japanese culture, his images are mass-reproduced worldwide. He credits Jeff Koons as an influence.
 
 
Untitled, 1982
Elizabeth Murray (American, born 1940)
screenprint on three sheets of Kuritani Kozo paper
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2001.22.1
 
When Murray recalls some of the childhood impressions that helped form her mature style, she mentions the galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago, Norman Rockwell, Disney cartoons, Superman, and comic books. She refers to the shapes in her work as "cartoony and blumpy and rounded and inflated and sort of wacky." This screenprint was made on three irregular sheets, to replicate Murray's practice of drawing on torn paper.
 
 
Girl in a Box, 2001
Yoshitomo Nara (Japanese, born 1960)
silkscreen print
MSU purchase, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.13.2
Girl in a Box is typical of Nara's children, drawn in a clearly cartoon-like style as his symbol of anxiety in a threatening world. Though he denies any current interest in animation or cartoons, Nara loved them as a child, when they relieved his loneliness as he grew up in an isolated area of Japan.
 
 
Red Tables-Blue Room, 2001
Gladys Nilsson (American, born 1940)
watercolor and gouache on paper
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.41
 
Nilsson was a founding member of The Hairy Who, some of whom became known as the Chicago Imagists, a group of artists of the 1960s who avoided mainstream artistic models in favor of cartoons, advertising, and folk art. Nilsson's colorfully patterned paintings reflect her interest in playful visual language. The compressed space, tilted perspective, radical differences of scale, and coexistence of outdoor and indoor objects create a world full of questions, part of Nilsson's often-self mocking inquiry into the various identities of women in American life.
 
 
Giddy-gag, 1969
Jim Nutt (American, born 1938)
acrylic on Plexiglas and wood
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and Herbert C. and Sandra Bell, 97.13
 
A member of Chicago's Hairy Who, Nutt created images freighted with sexual and violent overtones. With two hallmarks of comics, he uses caricature and text to make a sinister point, undercut with corrosive humor.
 
 
Gary, Popstar, 1998-99
Julian Opie (British, born 1958)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.10.2
 
Gary, Popstar is one of a series of six screenprints. The prints were made from hand-cut stencils based on photographs that Opie altered on a computer. Pop artist Andy Warhol's standardized portraiture, especially of celebrities, is a source for Gary, Popstar. Opie's portraits usually consist of a first name and a one-word occupation, suggesting questions about visual and verbal labels and what they reveal or conceal.
 
 
Cars?, 1998-99
Julian Opie (British, born 1958)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.10.1
 
Like much of Opie's work of the late 1990s, Cars? is devoid of human presence. The question mark in the title indicates a query to viewers about what is being represented and is an invitation to enter the world and make it their own: "I think my work is about trying to be happy ... I want the world to seem like the kind of place you'd want to escape into ... Mundane things are just as exciting as all the things you might imagine escaping into."
 
 
Wistful I, 1998
Monique Prieto (American, born 1962)
aquatint
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.10.3
 
Monique Prieto makes computer-generated abstractions of apparently haphazard forms in strong colors. Each shape represents a character and has a definite purpose, with free association informing but never controlling the work. According to one critic, a cartoon aesthetic impels the "bounce-ability" of Prieto's work. This sense of animation may come from Prieto's experience as a child, when her father took her to museums, and they made up stories about the forms in abstract paintings. Aquatint is a printing technique that produces broad areas of texture and tonal range instead of thin lines.
 
Casualty, 2001
Monique Prieto (American, born 1962)
iris print
MSU purchase, 2002.23
 
An Iris print begins with a prototype created by the artist, which is then scanned into a computer program. This digital information is transported to a large format color printer. Droplets of ink are then transferred to the paper to complete the design. The result is a lustrous continuous tone
 
 
Untitled (from the Space Addiction series), 2002
Paul Henry Ramirez (American, born 1963)
acrylic, enamel, and flashe on panel
MSU purchase, 2003.14
 
Ramirez's precisely rendered organic and anatomical forms "highlight the comedy of our bodily functions," according to the artist. Balanced by stable lines and squares, pools of color, and delicate scrolls imply tension between the organic and the mechanical. The rhythm of splashes and spirals has the vitality of animation, caught in a freeze frame. Flasche is an opaque matt form of acrylic paint.
 
 
Business Man Returns to His Home, 1966
Peter Saul (American, born 1934)
ink, crayon, and pencil on cardboard
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002. 43
 
Using what he calls "the Disney way of drawing," Saul satirized suburbanites and their world by rendering them as strange physical and architectural organisms. Cars, roads, and houses pulsate with lives of their own, while human figures perform impossibly grotesque feats, all in kaleidoscopic colors. Saul helped inspire the underground comics movement of the 1960s, and his current work continues to influence new generations of artists who share the artistic tradition of social criticism.
 
 
Five Views of the Inscrutable Neighbors, 1995
Roger Shimomura (American, born 1939)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.11
 
Shimomura's views recall frames on a reel of film, or a vertical cartoon strip, or a scroll, all relevant to his identity as a self-described devotee of Disney and comics, and as an Asian American. Partially obscured glimpses suggest the actions, habits, and products of ordinary life. Shimomura's title is an ironic reference to Americans' view of Asians as mysterious and alien.
 
 
Boyfriends, 2001
John Wesley (American, born 1928)
screenprint
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.7
 
The graphic clarity of this print belies its enigmatic title. Firm lines and planes of color define a private experience, magnified billboard-style. Wesley often uses tracing paper and stock photographs in his work, the better to capture the flat world of comics and cartoons. His cartoon motifs include a take-off on Blondie, Chic Young's newspaper comic.
 
 
Picnic, 1995
Sue Williams (American, born 1954)
lithograph
MSU purchase, funded by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, 2002.35.2
 
Williams' calligraphic print investigates the line between abstract and realistic forms by distorting body parts. Through these deformations, often in sharp colors, she raises complex questions of gender roles and relations.
 
 
Woman with Hand, 1997
Sue Williams (American, born 1954)
acrylic on paper
MSU purchase, funded by the Kathleen D. and Milton E. Muelder Endowment, 2002.17.2
 
Woman with Hand reflects two forces in Williams' work: her early cartoon-like depictions of violence against women, and her later move toward abstraction of the human form.
 
 
Traffic Touch, 2002
Karl Wirsum (American, born 1939)
acrylic on wood
MSU purchase, 2003.17
 
As a member of Chicago's Hairy Who in the 1960s, Wirsum embraced the vivid color, strong outlines, and imaginary beings of cartoons as part of his artistic vocabulary. His current work brings these elements to his painting-and-sculpture constructions. Wirsum's title is typically enigmatic.

 

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