Showing posts with label National Gallery of Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label National Gallery of Art. Show all posts

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Sense of Humor exhibit at National Gallery of Art

by Mike Rhode

Sense of Humor: Caricature, Satire, and the Comical from Leonardo to the Present. Jonathan Bober, Andrew W. Mellon senior curator of prints and drawings; Judith Brodie, curator and head of the department of American and modern prints and drawings; and Stacey Sell, associate curator, department of old master drawings. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art. July 15, 2018 – January 6, 2019. https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2018/sense-of-humor.html

Humor may be fundamental to human experience, but its expression in painting and sculpture has been limited. Instead, prints, as the most widely distributed medium, and drawings, as the most private, have been the natural vehicles for comic content. Drawn from the National Gallery of Art's collection, Sense of Humor celebrates this incredibly rich though easily overlooked tradition through works including Renaissance caricatures, biting English satires, and20th-century comics. The exhibition includes major works by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Jacques Callot, William Hogarth, James Gillray, Francisco de Goya, and Honoré Daumier, as well as later examples by Alexander Calder, Red Grooms, Saul Steinberg, Art Spiegelman, and the Guerrilla Girls.
James Gillray, Wierd-Sisters; Ministers of Darkness; Minions of the Moon, 1791
Any exhibit on humor that covers 500 years (from 1470 through 1997), two continents and at least five countries is going to have to deal with the vagaries of what humor actually is. Even within my lifetime, what is considered permissible humor in America has changed, sometimes drastically. The exhibit was divided into three galleries – according to their press release (available at the website) the first "focuses on the emergence of humorous images in prints and drawings from the 15th to 17th centuries. Satires and caricatures gained popularity during this era, poking fun at the human condition using archetypal figures from mythology and folklore. While not yet intended as caricatures of individuals, Italian works reflected the Renaissance interest in the human figure and emotion." To modern eyes, drawings of dwarves or grotesques do not really appear to be either humorous or a cartoon, but the curators make the arguments that the foundations of caricature and satirical cartooning are laid in this period. 
William Hogarth, Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn, 1738
The second gallery begins featuring artists that most of us would consider cartoonists as it "continues with works from the 18th and 19th centuries, when certain artists dedicated themselves exclusively to comical subjects." In this room one found a good selection of the British masters Hogarth, Rowlandson, Gillray and Cruikshank, as well as Goya and Daumier (and oddly enough the painter Fragonard who drew an errant lover hiding from parents in an etching, The Armoire). This is the most interesting part of the exhibit for historians of comics, and the strong selection of etchings and drawings is worth studying since one rarely gets to see the contemporary prints, or even the original drawings such as Cruickshank's pencil and ink drawing Taking the Air in Hyde Park (1865). The release also notes, "Included in the exhibition is Daumier's Le Ventre Législatif (The Legislative Belly) (1834), a famous image that mocks the conservative members of France's Chamber of Deputies," but the exhibit does not note that the sculptures Daumier also made of the Deputies is on permanent display in another gallery of the museum -- a lost opportunity.
The final gallery "focuses on the 20th century and encompasses both the gentle fun of works by George Bellows, Alexander Calder, and Mabel Dwight and the biting satire of Hans Haacke and Rupert García. Works by professional cartoonists such as R. Crumb, George Herriman, Winsor McCay, and Art Spiegelman are presented alongside mainstream artists like Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Nutt, and Andy Warhol." Of most interest were the McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland: Climbing the Great North Pole) and Herriman (Ah-h, She Sails Like an Angel, 1921) originals, both of which are worth examining in detail. This section also showed the paucity of the NGA's collections in modern comic art. These are joined by a print by Art Spiegelman, and several Zap Comic books, recently collected and described in standard art historical terms:
Robert Crumb (artist, author), Apex Novelties (publisher)
Zap #1, 1968
28-page paperback bound volume with half-tone and offset lithograph illustrations in black and
cover in full color
sheet: 24.13 x 17.15 cm (9 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.)
open: 24.13 x 34.29 cm (9 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of William and Abigail Gerdts

The fact that the Gallery still can not bring itself to use the word 'comic book,' the standard term as opposed to paperback bound volume, unfortunately shows that it has far to go in dealing with the twentieth century's popular culture rather than fine art. Still, the exhibit is interesting, and well-worth repeated viewings which are almost necessary to understand the material from the first four centuries of the show.



(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 20:2, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on November 16, 2018, while the exhibit is still open for viewing. For those not in DC, Bruce Guthrie has photographs of the entire exhibit at http://www.bguthriephotos.com/graphlib.nsf/keys/2018_07_29B2_NGA_Humor)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sense of Humor exhibit open at National Gallery of Art

Sense of Humor
July 15, 2018 – January 6, 2019
West Building, Ground Floor
https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2018/sense-of-humor.html

James Gillray, Midas, Transmuting All into Paper, 1797, etching with hand-coloring in watercolor on laid paper, Wright and Evans 1851, no. 168, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as an Anonymous Gift
Humor may be fundamental to human experience, but its expression in painting and sculpture has been limited. Instead, prints, as the most widely distributed medium, and drawings, as the most private, have been the natural vehicles for comic content. Drawn from the National Gallery of Art's collection, Sense of Humor celebrates this incredibly rich though easily overlooked tradition through works including Renaissance caricatures, biting English satires, and 20th-century comics. The exhibition includes major works by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Jacques Callot, William Hogarth, James Gillray, Francisco Goya, and Honoré Daumier, as well as later examples by Alexander Calder, Red Grooms, Saul SteinbergArt Spiegelman, and the Guerrilla Girls.

The exhibition is curated by Jonathan Bober, Andrew W. Mellon senior curator of prints and drawings; Judith Brodie, curator and head of the department of American and modern prints and drawings; and Stacey Sell, associate curator, department of old master drawings, all National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington
Passes: Admission is always free and passes are not required

About the Artists


Press Event: Sense of Humor

https://www.nga.gov/audio-video/press/press-sense-of-humor.html

At the press preview for Sense of Humor on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, remarks were given by Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. Following that, a tour of the exhibition was given by Jonathan Bober, Andrew W. Mellon senior curator of prints and drawings; Stacey Sell, associate curator, department of old master drawings; and Judith Brodie, curator and head of the department of American and modern prints and drawings.
Released: July 10, 2018

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Daumier cartoon on display at National Gallery of Art.

Le Defenseur (Council for the Defense) by Honore Daumier, ca 1862-65, from the Corcoran Gallery. It's in the works on paper gallery and would have just been transferred recently.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Need a book about comics? Try the National Gallery of Art

Here's my friend Bart Beaty's book, Comics Versus Art in the National Gallery of Art's bookstore. In the Art Theory section, no less.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rethinking Rascally Roy (Lichtenstein, not Thomas)

Around the time Roy Lichtenstein starting painting his canvases influenced by comic book panels, editor Stan Lee was giving everyone at Marvel Comics a nickname to make the company appear more homey. Since Lichtenstein usually appropriated images from DC Comics, he probably wouldn't have qualified for one, but if he did, he probably should have gotten the 'Rascally' that eventually settled on writer Roy Thomas. Lichtenstein seems to have spent his entire career engaging with other art forms, appropriating them, making sport of them, but also in some odd way, respecting them.

The National Gallery of Art is mounting a large career-spanning retrospective that begins with one of Lichtenstein's first comic-derived images - the Gallery's Look Mickey (1961). At the press preview, curators kept noting that the original image is from Donald Duck Lost and Found, a Little Golden Book from 1960, and not a comic book, but honestly that's a difference that makes no difference. Lichtenstein had come up with a hook, and a look, and together these let him break into the big time. To our eyes, familiar with almost forty years of later works, Look Mickey looks crude. The dots that texture Mickey's head and Donald's eyes are handpainted, and not made by forcing paint through a metal screen with a toothbrush as he would later turn to. The underlying pencil can be seen - something almost inconceivable in his work of just a few years later. Lichtenstein worked by doing a freehand drawing, projecting that piece onto a larger canvas and drawing it there, and then painting that. Examine this painting closely so you're prepared to see his technique evolve and tighten up as he finds his groove.



The Gallery owns 375 pieces of Lichtenstein's art -- one of the largest collections -- and this exhibit has 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures in it. They've borrowed from other museums and the show will travel to England and France after being here in DC. For comics and cartoon fans, after Look Mickey you can skip the rest of the Early Pop Art gallery, and go view the black & white drawing Alka Seltzer (1966) in the next room. To this reviewer, Jack Kirby's influence appears obvious -- and doesn't appear in the rest of the Black and White series. Kirby's Marvel Comics work had settled into its mature phase with the heavy black lines and over the top action that would typify his work. Lichtenstein's drawing of this banal subject produces a glass of Alka Seltzer that would look at home in the hands of Dr. Doom, if he ever stopped trying to conquer the world for a few minutes and looked after himself.



Instead of Marvel Comics, Lichtenstein turned to DC Comics for works in his Romance and War series. 1962's Masterpiece is the first in his Romance series, and he works in a joke about his new status as a darling of the art world. Contrast this work with Ohhh... Alright..., from 1964, and you can see his quoting of the comics medium becoming surer and cleaner, especially after he begins using his technique of painting through metal screens. Unfortunately, looking at the images here produces one of the main problems with Lichtenstein's comic-influenced art. When they are reproduced in a book (or blog) they become the same size as the comic they're taken from and this gives the viewer a false impression. These pieces are big, and the scaling-up while removing extraneous detail, and repositioning graphic elements gives them a... grandeur that insists that you see them in person.


Lichtenstein probably would have been a competent, if uninspiring comic book artist (think Don Heck) -- the original sketch for Ohhh... Alright... is in the exhibit and shows he could have done that, but the path he chose was probably better for all concerned. Bart Beaty's Comics Versus Art (University of Toronto Press, 2012) has a good chapter about the angst that Lichtenstein's work inspires in comic book readers - an angst I share. Lichtenstein was working from then-current comic books like Girls' Romances and Secret Hearts, and titling his works with an attribution such as Whaam! (after Novick)  or Whaam! ( All American Men of War #89) rather than simply Whaam! would have been a gesture of respect to other artists who, although working as commercial illustrators in comic books, still considered what they were doing to be art.


His decision not to do this continues to lead to headlines such as 2011's Connecting the Dots Between the Record $43 Million Lichtenstein and the $431 Comic Strip It Was Copied From, and articles that start "Imagine you drew a comic book for a nominal fee and a world-famous artist recreated in paint a panel from that work and sold it for millions of dollars without you receiving any credit or royalties." Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein is an entire website devoted to tracking the original comic panels that Lichtenstein repurposed / appropriated for his paintings.


His Brushstrokes series began with Brushstrokes (1965), which the exhibit explains came from "The Painting," Strange Suspense Stories #72 (Charlton Comics, October 1964) -- the NGA reproduces the panel, but neglects to mention that the original artwork is by Dick Giordano. This was among his last of this type of work. Instead he began painting large fake brushstrokes over his now trademark dots, or painting the explosions without any intervening war comic scene. The exhibit wall text for Whaam! suggests a reason, quoting him reflecting "If you go through [comic books], you'll find that there are very few frames that... would be useful to you. Most of them are in transition, they don't really sum anything up and it's the ones that sum up the idea that I like best."



Lichenstein then moved completely away from the comics-influenced paintings to do similar paintings with other fine art as the subject, such as a faux woodcut of a Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Picasso and Cezanne and the Laocoon were Lichtensteinized. He painted faux architectural elements and faux mirrors, and did sculptures and paintings quoting art deco. He made landscapes out of dots. All of these can be seen in the show.

But in the 1990s and towards the end of his career, Lichtenstein returned to comic book art and looked back at the romance comic books he had painted from 30 years earlier -- this time, he just left off the clothing for his Nudes series. Without their captions or word balloons, and with a more radical use of dots, these paintings seem further removed from their sources than his earlier works.


A lot has been written on Lichtenstein, and I'm obviously not an expert on his work, but I do think that his 1978 Self-Portrait, in which he depicts himself as a mirror hovering above an empty shirt -- while witty -- may very well also depict a deeper ambivalence about his career.

The exhibit Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective runs from October 14, 2012–January 13, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art. I can honestly recommend it to anyone interested in comic art who is willing to think about art, illustration, comics and where they all crash together. I would have preferred to see more of the original source material in the show -- only two comics panels are reproduced in the exhibit text  -- and buying a 1960s DC romance comic or two wouldn't bust anyone's budget. An excellent catalog by curators James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff is available, and the Gallery has several events planned including ones at local restaurants Busboys and Poets and Ben's Chili Bowl.

UPDATE: Here's some pages that Lichtenstein used from Charlton and DC Comics (thanks to Prof. Witek)-



STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #72 p. 25

Secret Hearts #83, Nov. 1962

All-American Men of War #90

All-American Men of War #89

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

June 13, 14, 20, 21: Lucky Luke at NGA

National Gallery of Art
Family Programs

Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure
June 13 and 20, 10:30 a.m.
June 14 and 21, 11:30 a.m.
ages 7 and up
In French with English subtitles

Based on the popular Franco-Belgian comic book series, Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure (Tous a l'Ouest: Une aventure de Lucky Luke) is the first feature film about the renowned wandering cowboy who rides Jolly Jumper, fights crime and injustice, and is known to "shoot faster than his shadow." This adventure has Luke leading a group of settlers from New York to California—a trip they have to make in eighty days in order to claim their land from the evil Crook—while also battling the bumbling Dalton Brothers, a gang of robbers who have hidden their loot in a covered wagon but can't remember which one. Filled with sight gags, action sequences, and witty narrative, this comedy entertains both children and adults. (Olivier Jean Marie, France, 2007, 90 minutes)

All film programs are shown in the East Building Auditorium, and admission is free. No registration is required. Seating is offered on a first-come, first-seated basis. Groups are welcome.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cartoons at National Gallery of Art

There's some animated shorts at the National Gallery of Art this weekend and next and then in early August:

Artistic Journeys
July 12, 16, 23 at 10:30AM, 11:30AM
July 13 at 11:30AM
East Building Concourse, Large Auditorium

(ages 4 and up) Join us for a screening of creative journeys. See what happens when a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti walks out of the museum in search of its soul mate in Walking Man (Michael Lindbough and Mads Tobias, Denmark, 1999, 4 minutes); watch a group of mice explore the unfamiliar in Seven Blind Mice (Weston Woods Studios, USA, 2007, 8 minutes); meet a dog who collects some wonderful treasures in Aston's Stones (Lotta and Uzi Geffenblad, Sweden, 2007, 9 minutes); and learn about the life and work of artist Mary Cassatt in the animated biography Mary Cassatt (Mike Venezia, USA, 2008, 24 minutes).

Reel Fun
August 2, 6, 13 at 10:30AM, 11:30AM
August 3 at 11:30AM
East Building Concourse, Large Auditorium

(ages 4 and up) This series of animated shorts will put a smile on your face. Films include My Happy End (Milen Vitanov, Germany, 2007, 5 minutes); A Sunny Day (Gil Alkabetz, Germany, 2007, 6 minutes); Giraffes Can't Dance (Weston Woods Studios, USA, 2007, 10 minutes); Puss and the Moon (Suzanne Tuynman, Netherlands, 2005, 5 minutes); Charlie and Lola: Welcome to Lolaland