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Cartoon Polymaths

Cartoon Polymaths

 |  by Levent Ozler
While the word cartoon is usually associated with humorous line drawing, the form has a deep influence across many types of art and design, from animation and children's books to puppetry and product design. What is it about the cartoon that permits-or enables-such an evolution? The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design will explore this phenomenon with Cartoon Polymaths, an exhibition of multimedia work by high-profile artists whose work proceeds from a cartoon sensibility, which will be on view at the SJDC's Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery from February 4-April 15, 2011.

Through a mix of newspaper tearsheets, comics, puppets, posters, zines, wallpaper, toys, animated film clips, interactive media and more, Cartoon Polymaths will showcase the broad ranges of several influential artists, including pioneering comic strip artist and animator Winsor McCay, illustrator and puppeteer Tony Sarg, iconic New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg, Spanish design legend Mariscal, musician, cartoonist and designer Richard McGuire, and the twenty-first century art collective Paper Rad. Specially commissioned for the show is an original two-page, full color comic by cartoonist Kevin Huizenga. Huizenga is the author of several comics works including the short story collection Curses, the graphic novella The Wild Kingdom, and the comic book series Supermonster, Or Else and Ganges.

"The diverse bodies of work from these accomplished artists suggest not only an abstracted approach to style, but an abstracted approach to form that allows them to translate their individual stylistic sensibilities across multiple media," said Bill Kartalopoulos, the exhibition's curator and illustration faculty member at Parsons. "With a roster of artists who span the last century, Cartoon Polymaths demonstrates the polymorphous adaptability of intelligent cartooning. And adaptability will be crucial to artists coming of age in this century."

In conjunction with the exhibition, there will be a series of public programs, including cartoonist Robert Sikoryak's "Carousel," a multi-media cartoon performance; a conversation with Richard McGuire; and film screenings.

"In demonstrating how the inimitable eye or hand of the cartoonist is able to migrate across multiple media and formats, the exhibition opens a window onto the unique visual-narrative worlds of these artists," said Radhika Subramaniam, Director and Chief Curator of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons. "The range of their work makes visible their inventive mobility across art and design disciplines."
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