Show alert: the fall group exhibition at BWAC (aka: The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, “Where EVERYBODY Can Be a Contenda!”) opens on September 25. Over 300 artists are showing their stuff and the theme is LINEAGE. As in your own, personal artistic lineage.
Artists are providing narrative sheets to display with their work, explaining the significance of the pieces they choose to show. The idea is to enlighten the viewer concerning their artistic development, path, history. I’ll share mine here, along with images of the four pieces I have in the show. Hope to see you on the afternoon of the 25th. It’s in Red Hook, waaaaay down at the south end of Van Brunt, in the civil-war era warehouse across from Fairway. Come for the art, stay for the unbeatable deal on brisket– this week only $8.99 a pound!
For BWAC’s Lineage show I chose four pieces that illustrate my own personal artistic lineage from cartoonist to pop painter: a lover of humor, nostalgia and place.
First we have “Domm Da Dom Domm”, an homage to two of the finest cartoonists America has ever produced: Harvey Kurtzman and William Elder. Like so many others, I started drawing thanks to Mad magazine, and have maintained the touch of a cartoonist ever since. Kurtzman was the editor of Mad back in the 1950s and Elder was one of his stable of cartoon superstars. This painting is a faithful reproduction of a panel from their classic 1954 spoof of the TV show Dragnet, with its heavy-handed theme music – “Domm da dom-domm! (pause, pause, pause, pause) Dommm da dom-dom-DOMMMM!” – which blasted forth at even the slightest dramatic provocation.
Thanks to guys like Kurtzman and Elder (and Mad magazine in general, and Wacky Packages, and Stan Freberg, and SNL, etc), parody and lampoon became a standard part of my artistic voice. And like all guys in their 20s, I read the beat classics by Jack Kerouac. He was trying to use the typewriter like Charlie Parker played the sax. I wondered what an LP would look like if Kerouac had been a musician instead of a writer. It would have been released by Blue Note, of course, with a cover in the style of designer Reid Miles. Neal surely would have been Jack’s sideman, and it would have featured Ginsberg, Orlovsky and Burroughs, too. “On the Road LP” (a print of an original painting) is a perfect example of parody in my work.
Pop art and San Francisco played major roles in my evolution as an artist, and they’re both part of “7-Up There” (here as a print of my original acrylic on canvas painting). Warhol, Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, Ruscha… all those pop artists made the whole messy modern world look like art, and when I lived in SF I felt like I was in a pop art museum 24/7, snapping hundreds of pictures during my two years there. One that I took in North Beach (turf of the beats) featured a remarkable 7-Up sign from the 1970s, mounted on a Victorian storefront/home. Double nostalgia, double pop art. And San Francisco is where I started painting in earnest (as opposed to exclusively cartooning), so as a place it’s an important part of my artistic story, too
“Blue Front” typifies my love of line, pop art, street scenes and another place near and dear to my heart: Ann Arbor, Michigan. As an undergrad I shopped at Blue Front and years later, when I returned to Ann Arbor to live, I noticed they still had their old Pepsi sign out front, along with the classic wall-painting from the 1930s still in tact. I took a picture on a November day (typically grey, clean and chilly) and reinterpreted it in acrylic on canvas. I had my first art show in Ann Arbor, and it will always be an important part of who I am, as a person and an artist.
There you have it. Be there on Sept. 25 or, you know, be an equiangular, equilateral, quadrilateral. Glayvin. Bur-HOY!