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Entries Tagged as 'washington D.C.'

Remembering Herblock at the Portrait Gallery

September 8th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Nice Tapes Boy!

Look! --- Nice Tapes, Okay, Boy?---Okay?--

Now that we’re hitting the homestretch of a three year Presidential campaign that has lasted longer than most major wars, its a fitting time to look back at the recent history of the American presidency through the eyes of the inimitable Washington post cartoonist Herbert Block, who caricatured every president between Franklin Roosevelt and George W. Bush until his death in 2001 (at the time, newspapers lamented in his obituary the added frustration of losing the perspective of Herblock shortly after September 11th–after all, he had helped give perspective to a nation during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Watergate, the Cuban Missle Crises, the Iran Hostage and most national tragedies and hardships of the 20th century). Check out the exhibition of original cartoons the National Portrait Gallery has on display.

Going by the trade name of Herblock, he coined the term “McCarthyism,” now a required vocabulary word for every 11th grade American history student, and gave us some of the most memorable images of Richard Nixon ever drawn. The exhibition includes his minimal set of drawing supplies and the beautifully goofy bronze National Cartoonist Society’s Rueben Award (named after Rube Goldberg. It looks sorta like this). Most interesting of all is the opportunity to see how the artist worked–the still visible non-photo-blue pencil drawings, his large, fluid sketchy inkings, and the frequently whited out and taped over faces he corrected again and again and again.

Lets See If You Can Do Any Better

Now Lets See What You Can Do!

In short, this is a real gem of an exhibition, rare in its unusual subject and scope, well curated (except for a curious shortage of George W. Bush cartoons), and universally fascinating. My major critique of the exhibition is that the exhibition designers bought into the growing trend of putting a group of labels far from the artwork (to be less distracting). This works beautifully for adding existential weight to the purity of color field paintings and the like, but when you have to keep walking back and forth to read the title ofan artwork that doubles as the caption of the cartoon, it is just inappropriate and discouraging to the viewer.

(Thanks to a voracious appetite for anything resembling a cartoon, I first started reading Herblock around age 9 with no understanding of the political topics the work touched upon, and received his autobiography for Christmas from some encouraging family member around the same time. My copy is now pitifully worn and dog eared, looking a little bit like it was dragged through the political unrest of the 20th century itself, and I can safely say that Herblock was a primary influence in both my political interest and development as a painter.)

Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · comic · washington D.C.

Most of the time, I wish I lived in Jim Henson’s Fantastic World

September 5th, 2008 · Comments Off on Most of the time, I wish I lived in Jim Henson’s Fantastic World

If you go to D.C. between now and October 5th, do yourself the favor of suspending reality long enough to believe in puppets and go to the Smithsonian International Gallery’s exhibition Jim Henson’s Fantastic World.

I can’t really give an objective critique of this exhibition because I hold the Muppets in the same special place in my heart reserved for Calvin and Hobbes, the American Flag, going back for seconds at Thanksgiving dinner, the Washington Redskins and coming down the stairs on Christmas mornings. I love these things in a way that transcends rationality, so I’m not going to muck about in things like logic and arguments.

Therefore: go to this exhibition. See Henson’s early cartoon work. Say hello to puppets of Rowlf and Bert & Ernie. See the most touching photograph of a human/felt conversation ever taken. Also, the exhibition is far from a highbrow art exhibition–it has zany sounds, rare early videos of the Muppets, bright colored walls, and an actual do-it-yourself puppetry studio for kids, so go ahead and take children. I mean with you. (There are probably laws against taking the children at the exhibition)

Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · comic · washington D.C.