Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hermann Mejia

This Venezuelan cartoonist/ illustrator works for MAD magazine creating caricatures and scences from famous movies putting a satirical twist on them, characteristic of the magazines fashion.

This depiction of George Lucas shows a more self depracating image of himself. As he reaps the benifts of his box office production- STAR WARS.

As in the reading, "royalty" has been besmirched time and time again, by rumors that hurt their reign. The constant scrutany is what comes along with such high positions. George Lucas here is no "king" but his movies have come into great aclaim. Shown here is the endless merchandising that comes along with his infamous movies and their debuts. But how are we to judge when he is simply a victim of the times, like Louis Philippe, and Louis XV were rumored to have committed such murderous crimes or acts of animal cruelty.

And since we have been discussing the many slides which have included the consumption of food, this shows the same!


I agree that the amount of attention behind King Philipon's pear-anoia intensified the connection between himself and a pear. In a sense if he had possibly ignored this more it might not have been such an issue. Because this comical image created a stir it attracted more attention. The shape of a persons face, in this case Philipon's was subject for ridicule. Even though his face really does not have any connection to a pear and a pear has really no stand alone offence on the King. George Bush faced similar scrutiny through comic after comic of his face being replaced by a monkeys. The difference between these two is the seriousness of it. I think if Bush had taken these images to court he would have faced even greater destruction through an uncontrollable world of imagery. I think the fact that King philipon was basically taken down or shall i say pear-ilized by a pear is probably the most comical part about it. I think the best defence at times against these kinds of depictions is to either laugh along with it or to not make a big issue out of it.

In a way the shapes of our faces seems harmless, trivial and why care, but to some the shapes of human faces seemed enough to be incriminating. Back in the early 19th century scientists thought that the shape of our skulls had something to do with the way we processed information through our brains. They thought that specific kinds of activity in certain areas of the brains would cause our skulls to form differently. Employers where told to look for certain facial features in relation to job placements. This seems like a bunch of hooey until you look at some court statistics which find that members of jurors will respond to the facial features of the defendants and witnesses. Some studies show that babyface person might be more likely convicted of a negligent crime instead of intentional. Even today some policemen swear that they can identify a criminal by the look on their face. This idea of making relations with facial feathers and criminal intent has seemed to become less prevalent in the US, but still apparent in other countries. The way our minds are set it seems to be in human nature to judge based upon looks. We are hardwired to make assumptions and connections right down to being effected by the color of a room to being able to tell if something has a negative feel. The trusted saying " trust you gut" may apply here. If you find your self alone with a sketchy person your instincts might tell you to get away from them, but if you found yourself alone with an Innocent looking person you might even stay and start up a conversation. Making assumptions and stereotyping is in our nature, thought doesn't have to stay that way.

What's in a McDonald's Hamburger?


In response to the Rabbit controversy in 19th century Paris, McDonald's has also had its share of rumors related to the food being served under the golden arches. I remember the kangaroo meat theory of the early 90's, but upon further investigation of the topic, it seems McDonald's has been accused of using many meat products, including worm meat and cow eyeballs. The worm meat accusation was discredited due to the economics of the situation; worms are actually more expensive than beef by weight. Similarly kangaroo meat was seen as unreasonable. In fact, kangaroo meat is more expensive even in Australia once processed. Kangaroo is also more nutritious and reserved for more expensive restaurants.

In the UK a seven year court case showed that among a list of accusations of McDonald's restaurants, it was found that McDonald's is only guilty of mistreating its employees and serving food which leads to heart disease. This isn't a secluded case though, most major corporations face constant lawsuits. With current nutritional guidelines and information posted on every item commercially sold, these accusations are quickly beginning to lose their credibility. I agree with the idea of having knowledge of the food you are being served, but at the same time I see most of these lawsuits as an attempt by an individual to collect from a large corporation.


Irony is one the best tool caricature artists has in getting a message across. Bill "Whitey" Sanders, who was a caricature artist for 34 years, used irony in his works. Here he has Nixon, identifiable by his nose and brow, Paints graffiti saying "democrats are soft on crime." Nixon would later be put on trial for his political crimes, losing the presidency because of it. So his slogan was incorrect, Democrats did take strong action against criminals, Nixon, and because he is calling for stronger enforcement against crime, and he himself is committing crimes, it is ironic.
The interesting thing is that this is not about Watergate, this refers to a political move of Nixon's, He was trying to appeal to the idea that he had changed, or what was called the "New Nixon," and was depicted with him smiling, opposed to his "mean" look. the man holding the "New Nixon" mask says, "Say, mister, you dropped your mask." The artist is saying a few things here. he is saying that Nixon hasn't changed, that "New Nixon" attitude is fake, and that he is unable to keep up that appearance. So while Nixon presents himself as changed, in truth he hasn't changed at all.

Matters Concerning the Heart...and Other Organs

In the reading this week, the most interesting part in my opinion was the article written by Rebecca L. Spang, called “Ingestion / Pulling A Rabbit Out Of A Cat”. The article articulates the story and scandal of how in Paris in 1838, in certain restaurants instead of rabbit being the main ingredient in Gibelotte de Lapin as the menu advertized, it wasn’t uncommon for rabbit to be replaced with cat, a much easier ingredient to come by in the city of Paris.

Thus with such a scandal, the dinner unaware or uncertain of what they were dinning on, it was scrawled about by writers of the time and printed throughout the papers so that it became a symbol larger than the issue itself. Soon the rabbit was the symbol for luxury and the upper class in that not only was the animal a professional at self preservation but that the idea of eating anything but a game rabbit in Gibelotte de Lapin was outrageous. As for the cat, it symbolized the struggle of the lower class, as well as the fact that they lacked the ability to question their food and object to something that was edible.

This issue of class and choice in today’s world reminiscent of the Paris scandal of cat vs. rabbit can be found in the issue regarding another mammal. In today’s modern world, there’s a wide array of genres of scandals that occur daily, but in congruence with the advancement of medicine, the scandals involved in the medical field are an epidemic in themselves. With every new procedure or pill there are ten scandals that are the result.

Lately, one of the bigger medical scandals that has been detected internationally is that of organ trafficking. Over the past few years there have been countless stories of bones, tissues and organs being stolen by funeral homes and then sold to bigger biomedical companies and then shipped to hospitals around the world, some of the organs later accused of possible disease.

Continuing with this issue, China is now accused of harvesting organs from executed prisoners and then selling them to the rest of the world to be transplanted. Thus, similar to the issue of is one eating cat or rabbit, transplant patients have the right to question where exactly their new organ is from and how it was obtained. This question also brings forth the dilemma of pride and / or need, does one care where the organ is from if that’s the only option? Where is the line drawn between morality and survival?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Misleading labels

In 2007 there was a scandal that broke out relating to the use of fur on coats. It wasn't that there was fur on the coats it was that it was mislabeled. It sold to consumers as fake fur and animal friendly, however when it was tested the majority of the fur was Raccoon Dog fur.

In the reading this event relates to it by comparing the Paris 1838 cat switching incident. More specifically the social hierarchy mentioned on page 9. How the higher social classes thought they were better for eating rabbit. At the same time the lower classes would happily eat what was served. Those buying the coats thought they looked more sophisticated, but would never buy real fur. However those who could afford less would wear it, because it was cheap and stylish. Like caricature this event in 2007 criticized society and created questions about how things like this are handled.

I do not think that using fur on clothing is appropriate or acceptable, I do not think that this event will be the last of its kind. Mislabeling and confusion leads to hurt and social upheaval.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ingest This...

The act of eating is a main theme in the caricatures that we are studying in class; they are metaphors of society and consumption. Given that we are currently in a consumption and consumer based society I cannot help to wonder if we know what we are consuming. In Spang’s article “Ingestion/ Pulling A Rabbit Out Of A Cat” she is interested in a time period and the subsequent paradoxes of imagery from France in the 1830’s in which it was commonplace for restaurants to serve cat instead of the menu suggested rabbit entrees. This also corresponds to a time when the king of France was more interested in the well being of his royal animals than that of his poor. She states “cats had replaced rabbits in so many stewpans, so rabbits had replaced people in the monarch’s heart and budget calculations.” (Spang 10). But do we know what we are ingesting today? I am not concerned with restaurants baffooning us (I have worked in my fair share, and have never seen the horrific acts that are often depicted in movies), but I am concerned with the things that we know are in our food. It is printed on the ingredient list, it is all the unpronounceable items and additives that I knowing eat without knowing the consequences. “Fat Donald” by Don Mak is a grotesque depiction of one of McDonalds most beloved characters. The image suggests what Ronald McDonald would look like if he actually consumed the fattening fare that is served there. We look down on him as he sits on the floor, about to burst at the seams, smiling down at the cheeseburger he is holding. I see this work as a comment on our societies poor eating habits, obesity, and the damages that these food choices of convenience can have on us. And perhaps we cannot entirely forget the air of mystery surrounding the processed meats that go into our chicken nuggets and burger patties. Yummy!

The Donkey & the Elephant

In this weeks reading, it was interesting to see how little it took for King Louis Philippe to be refereed to as a pear, and how easy this symbol stuck to society. The reading states, "the caricature of King Louis Philippe in the shape of a pear- simply saying, "The king is not a pear" made it possible for future speakers to use pear to refer, in fact, to the king." Caricature can and has had such an effect on shaping various aspects of society. This fact got me thinking about the two, commonly used symbols, created through caricature, that we now recognize as our Democratic and Republican parties, the Donkey and the Elephant. These two symbols are used so commonly in caricature, and are so recognizable to our society. Take this caricature for example; no one would think twice about why our President Obama is riding in a car with a Donkey and an Elephant. We automatically connect these two symbols as the two political parties that run our nation, and therefor, we are able to make sense of this political cartoon.
Its amazing to see how much caricature, and its history still affects our society today. Many of us would never think twice about why an organization as powerful as our Political Parties are represented by animals, none the less, a "Jackass" and an over sized mammal. These symbols have been imprinted in our minds by caricature, as the values and the faces of the political parties and presidents they represent.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is, for some unknown reason, a highly controversial topic. Although there are many states who have legalized it, there are still many who oppose it. It can be used for so many things and is probably healthier and has less side effects than most medication. In the case of this woman, she has a disease with no cure. Marijuana would be a perfect prescription but the Doctor prescribes aspirin since he will get arrested for giving her what she truly needs. What kind of world do we live in where patients can't get the medication they need?
We live in a world where there is a pill for almost every problem you have, whether the problem needs medication or not. It it ridiculous how many silly medications there are just so the medicinal industry can make some money off of suckers who actually think they need it. So why would they let a "drug" that has multi-purposes and has almost no side effects into the business?Marijuana can be a medicine for patients with AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain. If medical marijuana was allowed it would create competition with the pre-existing man made medicines with side effects.. which do you think would win? There would be no need for an addicting expensive pain killers when there is marijuana to help!

Irony is only as good as its symbols

In the reading, the age of caricature, by Diana Donald, the focus is on caricature as opinionated and persuasive forms of propaganda. The caricature is a loaded form of propaganda, simply in the fact that it is a quicker and easier way to inform people of one’s message by getting them to plainly view it.

In that statement lays the key to the success and failure of a caricature. A caricature is successful if one can view it and understand it without research or much prior knowledge of its subject and what makes it understandable is a result of symbolism. Symbolism is the skeleton of caricature, without the structure of the idea, the idea can’t exist. The tiniest inclusion of one object or thing can mean the world to the message of the caricature.

For instance in the picture Masterpiece Silhouette Theater, the meanings of the two pictures change drastically with the simple inclusion or exclusion of an easel. With or without the easel means one is either an artist, idealized and respectable, or a pervert, revolted and criminal.

Also this image, like the image of Hogarth’s, Laughing Audience, I feel mocks the very person who made the image as well as its viewers, by comparing an artist to a pervert, with the only difference being an easel.

Thats not Supposed to be there?!

This is an image that you have probably seen during and through out your internet escapades. It's classic irony. There is a no birds sign, but right atop of it sits a bird. While some may not get a kick out of this sort of humor I for one appreciate its cleaver usage of opportunity. Many times irony is, at least in my mind unplanned. It is the slapstick of life. What makes this photo even funnier is that perhaps there are birds all over this "birdless zone" thus magnifying the uselessness of that sign and what ever other last ditch efforts were put into keeping this place a bird free place. 
I find a slight bit of irony in Thomas' Rowlandsons engravings and many engravings compared to comics today. It seems that such comic relief should have a sense of weightlessness to its drawing, not being so bogged down with academic reference. However, these former engravings still held the essence of find drafting. Many of these etchings are so detailed that they appear more serious and factual at times. The devotion of the artist to these images almost supports the sincerity of the ideas behind the drawings. This is only from a visual standpoint.

Racism in Political Cartoons/Caricature

I would to like to discuss/examine the presence of racism in regards to caricature. Stereotypical portrayals of races and prominent political figures are commonplace in regards to old political cartoons and illustrations. I say old but this custom has been in open practice as recent as the era of the Vietnam War. In the greater part of the 19th century racist portrayal of Asian leaders and soldiers and leaders could be found in mediums as seemingly innocent as comic books. This propaganda was also officially endorsed by the government, appearing on patriotic war posters and cartoons. However these portrayals hardly met with much outrage or disapproval which comments upon the mental state of citizens during times of war. However cartoony stereotypes have also existed in other forms such as sports mascots, the Cleveland Indian mascot being the prime example of this. Also even such famous cartoons such as Looney Toons have at times portrayed African Americans and Asians in a racist derogatory manner. But if caricature is simply the exaggeration of a person's most prominent features does it not follow that these portrayals are simply innocent caricature? The question is at what point does an exaggeration of a racially exclusive feature transcend from something simple and playful to racist and derogatory. Does the nature of a political cartoon defend the use of such depictions? Again I may write more about this in another post.

Europe at War

I found prints and drawings by Walter Trier at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) this past weekend. Unfortunately, since museum curators aren’t particularly fond of overeager students and their digital cameras, I was politely commanded to never take pictures of the art work. Sadly, I could not seem to find the same print on the internet, but I did find another. The Europe Map (note: I’m only calling it this because I was incapable of finding its actual title) illustrated by Trier, was drawn in 1914, right around the time that World War I began. The artist draws stereotypes of the types of people found in each country/empire in the continent, and shapes them to the basic outline of the country. The most obvious of these is the yelling man drawn to represent Russia. Considering the time that the illustration took place, it is also important not to overlook how tense and warlike all of the “people” appear. For example, the Ottoman empire has his rifle pointed straight down Russia’s mouth. Germany looks as though it is trying to fight everyone at once. Meanwhile, countries that stayed predominantly neutral during the war remain countries.

Ok, I think this stretches the definition of caricature, however I remember discussing whether an object or representation of something can be a caricature of another object or another representation. This picture is a minimal piece by Donald Judd.

The minimalist movement was a reaction to abstract impressionism. This artwork was sometimes created by factory machines, or with machine like perfection to avoid showing the hand of the artist. It bought into question the role of an artist in the authorship and creation of their work. Minimalism also tried to avoid putting any sort of connotation or meaning into their works, the work was the obvious, the object itself, and experimented with tradition materials, as well as traditional ways of displaying work. Donald Judd created this particular repeating modular so that no one part of the work would stick out, and the eye would be drawn not to any one particular focal point but to the overall piece as a whole.

I chose this piece because isn’t any artwork that is a direct reaction to a previous movement a caricature in a way? In it’s contrast to past works, it is making a comment on the work of the past, or rather on it’s particular view of the direction art should be moving toward) (as well as what values should be maintained or discarded). However, it still retains similar elements to the past so that one can trace from what movement minimalism arose. Comparable to the way in which the negative of a mold recalls the positive and vise versa.

I also choose this piece because it reminded me of a section of the reading where Diana Donald describes the print shop window, the dynamic between the audience and the comic prints, “ the latter becomes a comic spectacle celebrating the intimate relationship between satire and social reality” (7). Similarly most minimal works where created so that they were comparable to the body.The size, contrasting angles (to the smooth organic curves of the body), as well as a display (which often was placed in a location where the audience could walk around accommodating human eyes and legs) makes the audience an integral part of this kind of work. Not only that, but the work is defined in comparison to the audience. Together, they generate a larger more complex work than when set apart.

Toying with Power

In recognition of the satirical caricature, this image is a representation of the mentality of the noble class circa 1803. The child looks upon his upcoming crowning as a toy, and is eager to play with the new toy. I think this still relates to people in positions of power, the importance of their position is overlooked in favor of this "new toy" of control. This caricature appears similar to the concepts of Hogarth, where facial features are exaggerated to portray the character's role. The child is slightly angered by the mother figure, who appears grotesque. It is observed the child must remain somewhat innocent in demeanor to demonstrate his lack of understanding of the importance of the crown he is being given.

The influence of Satire Through History

After reading The Age of Caricature I realized how influential cartoons and caricature have on society. It helps to build a public opinion on a subject or person, it can also make or break a movement occurring in society. The use satire mocks society and speaks to the everyday people, it helps form public opinion or vocalize concerns through humor. I like the statement made on page 7. "intimate relationship between satire and social reality, between performance and audience reaction." Through this statement the author makes it clear that communication between the public and satirical cartoons are closely related and function together. Without out one the other can not happen. Also because of the influence satire has had on society and the accessibility it has on society such artists as James Gillray (featured) the craft of caricature and cartoons has continued through time.

James Gillray may have been popular during the French revolution for his critical views of the French Revolution and his work making waves, but he was one of a few to start a long line of humorous and critical looks at society. As well as criticize what they see as injustice in society and those who lead. Today satire and cartoons are still used to depict war overseas, a featured piece.

Dr. Seuss Propaganda

On the subject of propaganda, especially political propaganda, I found that the cartoons by Dr. Seuss that are targeted towards WWII are similar in many ways to the ones regarding the French Revolution. First of all, I found it extremely interesting that Dr. Seuss, the man that wrote so many stories that taught morals to children, would engage in mudslinging, but that is a different issue... Obviously, any American at the time of this war would have been greatly disturbed by the dictators who were a part of the axis. Not only did Dr. Seuss create cartoons to make people more passionate about the war, but he also did a bit of advertising. He used very convincing cartoons to try and get people to buy savings bonds and stamps to stimulate the economy. In this cartoon above, he used a symbol the represents a very strong part of America's identity and used that to scare people into buying things. It's quite clever and pretty interesting to think of Dr. Seuss as a manipulator, not that he didn't have good cause.

The cartoon epicting issues of the French Revolution, "The Contrast", there is a definite one sided idea present, saying that the British government is better than the French. It uses words such as; atheism, treason, anarchy and misery to describe the French, and word like; religion, morality, security, protection, prosperity and happiness to describe the British.
These cartoons by Dr. Seuss, along with many of the other political, war cartoons he did show a definite side and even a marketing motive. He uses the humor of making fun of people, such as the one below of General Hideki Tojo of Japan, to make people of America feel superior in some way to someone as silly looking as him, and that, teamed with the discust of his behavior in realiy make the viewer want to wipe that sneer off of his face, but how does one go about that? Oh, by buying savings bonds and stamps! The art of propaganda is genius really. It sways minds, and if it doesn't have to do that, it makes those minds firmly decided and revs them up for action.

The dark side of satire.

My first impressions of the word caricature is a humorous work of art, but I am finding that satire certainly (and historically) comes from a much darker place. Where I expect a humorous buffooning of character I am finding the “chaotic, contradictory, ambiguous, negative, often nightmarish and hysterical” (pg. 142) qualities surrounding works by Hogarth, Gillray’s image of cannibalism, etchings of a man holding a head on a dagger, skewered babies, and general misery. While understanding that these works were created in a time of great political upheaval, I started looking for modern day works that have a similarly grotesque and chilling effect. Kris Kuksi works are made of discarded items, mostly children’s toys and mechanical bits and pieces. Though contemporary, his works are sculpted in a way that is reminiscent of gothic architecture, with their many spires and their skeletal structures, he has also adopted a somber color palette similar to the stone once used in those buildings. There is something in the line and color of the work that reminds me of the etchings we have studied, obsessively made and packed full of detail, making it a dizzying attempt to take all of the information in. Similarly his works comment on war, new philosophies, consumerism, as well as the corruption and de-moralization within our society. Kris Kuksi brings “old world” grotesque to today.

"Fighting educative art for all"

"Art must no longer be the expression of individual satisfaction (which) it is today, but should aim to become a fighting educative art for all." -Siqueiros

Reading about caricature and illustrations during the rule of George III this painting came to my mind. The New Democracy(1944) was painted by Jose David Alfaro Siqueiros, in the Palace of fine Arts in Mexico City. Siqueiros was a Mexican painter/muralist- which much like the printers during the reign of King George, saw the everyday struggles of the working and rural poor- he understood the seperation of classes and gave his voice in the artistic world to those who were not being heard. Although this is not a satirical view point, his morals are grotesqly depicted within this female character. There is no allegory here, he faces the issue of oppression and exploitation head- on.

His reinterpretation of classical painting was infused with the age of the machine- modernism along with the call for a reformation. The symbolism in this mural is much like that of Hogarth- the torch representing the light to move forward and the chains which represent bondage. His figure is exaggerated having more than two limbs, and the emotion is depicted in the crying out in the face. The movement within the frame is on-going. as was the constant struggle to reform the Mexican Government.

Test Conformation

I found this little cartoon in the weekly update in TIME magazines website. The snowstorm that hit the east coast put the functions of Washington DC completely on hold as a city and center of the federal government. But some citizens probably saw the storm as a pointless freeze since congress seems so incompetent. Its as if nothing was impacted in our nation by the storm. And still the two parties in our government continue to bury each other in callousness and rivalry. In the end a test run on how much we need the house of representatives showed no change and the parties seek to bury the other out of power. Not to mention that both figures are shoveling their paths in opposing directions, instead of towards the middle of compromising on the same track.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Public opinion

In the fifth chapter of the reading, "The Age of Caricature," the author states, "Caricatures were a 'thermometer' of public opinion, but could also be used to manipulate it." He uses this in context to describe caricature's important role in England and France, during the time of the French Revolution. He describes caricature giving society a "new sense of their own worth and political rights," which in turn, sparked the establishment of various political organizations and viewpoints. Since many caricatures were geared towards the general public, people of various intelligences and literacy levels could comprehend them, and therefore take a stand.
Our rights and values are something that hold great importance in our society today, and something we don't think twice about. Almost everyone has their own opinion on various debates and political views, and we continue to express those opinions freely. I found it interesting that that this reading describes Caricature as helping shape the views and opinions of people at the time, as well as a means of expressing one's view to the public. The views expressed by the various artists brought about debate over the political system.
This is something that is so common for us today. Propaganda is such a big part of our political system, especially during the Presidential Elections. Propaganda specifically tries to push a certain view onto the pubic. I found these various political cartoons supporting the idea of Caricature today, still shaping the views of society, as well as expressing societies views/feelings. These political cartoons range from the time of the Presidential Election/campaigns, and now.
Obama is first displayed in such a positive light and atmosphere. He is shown with a HUGE grin and symbolizes HUGE hope for America. This cartoon is purposely trying to veer the opinions of Americans to vote for Obama. The second cartoon is from the same time, and without even showing Obama, it still represents this positive force Obama had over Americans, and it expresses America's positive feelings towards Obama as well. It was in a way influenced by America's views. The third and fourth cartoons are after Obama began his term in office, and was faced with the challenge of performing the actions of change he promised. Gradually, Obama's big smile falls into utter confusion, and worrisome pouts. Obama is no longer depicted as this strong positive figure, he is gradually showing weakness. This cartoon could possibly bring doubts to once supportive Americans. It could also be representing Americas growing doubts and worries, as we wait and wait for change. The last, and most recent cartoon depicts a great lack of support for Obama. Although you do not see his face, the fact that he is standing alone in the middle of a 'battle' between two sides shows a definite lack of control. A President is not someone you would want to portray as being weak, but this caricature showing his inability to control or take charge of a sticky situation, is certainly not showing his best side. This could definitely effect societie's views of Obama, and his abilities. These political cartoons, along with this idea, make me wonder whether society's views are affected more by caricature, or if caricature has a greater effect on society. Has this effect changed from the time it first began?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sorry for the very late post, better late than never I guess. Anyways to compound upon what I began to examine in my last post this time I chose a simplistic caricature. Thinking about recognition with the fewest amount of detail possible or creating a likeness with the least amount of lines. Line thickness plays an important part in creating a sense of depth in this image which is also important in sculpting and understanding the face. What is the bear minimum amount of detail that is required for the image to be recognizably its subject? Also what specific features does the artist choose to include and leave out in order to be successful in accurately portraying the subject. In this particular image the artist chooses to include the chin, the eyebrows, the pupils of the eyes, and the philtrum among others to paint a picture of a particular person. From this seemingly small amount of detail we can make a surprising number of assumptions about the subject such as his age, race, disposition, ethnicity, and weight, which led me to again consider the manner in which we recognize a human face and distinguish it from others.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Dilution of Hate

These images were done by the artist Philip Guston in the latter 1960s. Philip Guston was a painter/print marker with a cartoonish style whose work spanned form the abstract expressionism to the Neo- expressionism. One of Philip’s more famous series is his rendering of the KKK. This is one of those cartoons that rides the line between awful and funny, or rather is funny because it deals with the edge between comic and terrifying.

I picked these images because I though it was a good example of how his style and image, and not the word choice, created the ironic message Guston was looking for. His thick lines, meaty looking hands, and solid blocks of color render the KKK, a hate group, as cartoonish. This rendering has the effect of taking a very serous, feared, and in certain cases revered hate group and degrades both their importance as well as capability of creating any sort of effect. It makes the members look clumsy, clownish, imbecilic, almost cute, which dulls the sting one experiences on contemplating their name. One wonders if the one on the left’s thick hand (who appears to be doing a self portrait) could possible do an accurate rendering of himself. Surly, he is not sensitive enough to see himself in any sort of accurate light, never mind having the skill to create an accurate drawing out of the image in his head. One doubts if he has any meaningful message to convey, all his options must be one-sided, unrehearsed, based on faulty evidence. It is ridiculous and almost funny that he is trying to define and share himself with the rest of the world, rather than revolting and terrifying. It lessens both the weight of the Ku Klux Klan’s impact, and the gravity of their opinions.

The image on the right, which depicts three rock-like heads of the KKK members has a similar effect on the viewer. The stone-like heads look immobile, static, stationary, bolder-like, and dull. Not only does the image of rocks cause one to think of dense, stubborn, but it also makes the group look immobile and stuck. There is no way they are going to change despite the evidence thrown at then that contradicts their views. They are no longer sensitive human beings, but dumb rocks, symbols of an even dumber cause. For some reason there is almost noting more infuriating than a person who won’t budge despite opposing evidence of their views. The audience may become angry and dissatisfied as the static heads. It also causes the audience to doubt the capability of the groups ability to reek havic, for the stones (and these are particularly soft looking stones) can be thrown by human hands but they can’t grow legs and get up and walk along of their own accord, without additional support they are useless.

The Far Side, a popular one panel syndicate comic, explores humorous situations, which poke fun at real world issues. Much like Hogarth's print, "The Bad Taste of the Town," these images are examples of "powerful forms of visual advertisement." These quirky comics can be found on daily tear off calendars, or newspaper columns, publicizing and mocking human behaviors. The Far Side provides inexpensive, yet powerful imagery, in a manner that is easily accessible to a majority of the population.

This caricature illustrates reasoning behind God's "creation" of the Earth. It suggests that he threw together some ingredients to slowly cook over a matter of seven days. This liberal depiction pokes fun at conservative views, by questioning the taste of God's creation. It also questions such decisions that God has made upon creating this world full of unsavory flavors. I question why such a higher being, with absolute power, would create such a hellhole if he were completely capable of designing such an intricate world. And on the seventh day, God said, "Let there be jerks," and so there were jerks, and it was bad.

American Consumer Whores

America Gothic by Stuart Green is a blatant parody of the American Gothic painting, by Grant Wood, from the early 20th century. The painting was originally a portrayal of an idealistic Midwest . Two stern face farmers, standing in front of a Gothic revival farmhouse, posing with the tools of their trade, turns into two “stereotypical” modern middle Americans. The clothing between the two remains the same, as does the residence; however the biggest, most obvious difference is that in Green’s illustration the farmer and his wife are morbidly obese. This is a blatant stab at how the standard American has changed in the past seventy to eighty years, from thin, slim, hard working farmers to squishy, ridiculous, overweight hick-like parodies of themselves.

Everything about these characters is supersized and branded. Their hands appear comically miniscule in comparison to the giant soft drink and hamburger. In fact, their entire bodies do not quite seem to fit the rest of their bodies; their arms are freakishly thin, their hands horribly small. The farmer in the original painting is staring forward very intently, while in the parody the man looks like a mindless consumer drone. This brings up the topic of branding; instead of the weathervane on top of the farmhouse in the original American Gothic, Green’s illustration has the McDonald’s arches above their house. Also, instead of the serene Midwest backdrop, the background is blatantly littered with different brands.


Seeing all those prints in our packet, reminded me of this one- "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Albercht Durer, was a German painter and printer from the 18th century who made a name for himself through his work and was well established in the "Northern Reniassance."

In this illustration- a visual representation of the breaking of the sevens seals in the book of revelations. Depicted are pestilence, war, death and famine- riding on white, red, black and pale horses. The detail of this print is amazing, much like Hogarth, Durer pays attention to detail and makes use of the space wisely. The allegorical and moralizing suggestiveness of this print is clear. Durer was catholic, but had swaying between catholicism and christianity; even though he did a whole series of religious related work.

Anyways, like Hogarth he too was concerned with his work and used mathematics to make sense visually of his work. He demonstrated proportion and perspective in his work. The facial features of each of the riders expresses an emotion- of anger or determination, perhaps (even in the horses)? the sulken face of famine is evident, and especially in his horse. The line work is what pulls this piece together. It adds movement throughout the entire print, it acts as the unifying element in this chaotic illustration. His work demonstrates "his knowledge of pictoral language of allegory" like Horgarth, even thought Albercht came long before.

Evolution of Bush

I found this caricature interesting because you can see the gradual distortions the artist used over time to illustrate Bush. The more and more unsuccessful events that occurred throughout his presidency, determine the artists ability to warp his features. We can see his success as a President gradually diminish, along with his size. It is interesting to think of how much hope and faith we put into a President when they are first elected, and how in our eyes they hold so much power and importance. The more thing that go wrong during their term changes how we view them. They become less and less powerful, and gradually loose our faith. I think this caricature does a good job at showing this, as he gradually distorts Bush's features into a small, weak, powerless monkey. Looking at the first caricature, I would still view him as a president. Looking at the last caricature, I would see him as a worthless baboon. This feelings the caricatures give the viewer, can commonly relate to feelings and views many people had of him.

Twin Tailed Mermaid

Starbucks Coffee is by far the most popular coffeehouse chain in the United States. As a matter of fact I'm drinking one right now. Have you ever wondered about that logo on the top. It's an image of a twin tailed mermaid.  This world wide known logo has brought Starbucks all the way through since the 1970's. The logo came from a similar logo design found in Italy by Howard Schultz who joined the company in 1982. Howard had founded a similar coffee house in Italy called Il Giornale. Later he purchased Starbucks, and transferred the same style of logo.

The Starbucks mermaid or siren has evolved through some stages each becoming more and more generalized. The original logo pictures the siren completely topless with both twin tails revealed. The second version of this siren shows her this time with her hair covering up her chest. The text is significantly bigger drawing more attention to the name rather than the siren.  The color has also shifted to green with stars emphasizing the name.  

The current logo is of a generalized version of the sirens top half. Now it might be difficult to see the siren with two tails. Now she looks just like a topless women or goddess. 

I find it interesting that while this name and logo was taken from a specific place, a novel by Moby-Dick, that we no longer associate it with that place. This character has since transformed to being in one with the coffee it represents. 

In the reading about William Hogarth, it expressed that may of his works dealt with issues in society and used satire to comment on certain public figures and stereotypes. For instance one of his series of engravings titled, ‘A Harlot’s Progress’, remarks on the public opinion and stereotype of prostitutes, clergy, and public officials in the 1700s. Hogarth’s series depicts the deterioration of Moll Hackabout, a fictitious stereotypical prostitute, who starts out as young and desirable, then slowly with every customer, grows old and ragged, cast out by the very men who made her popular and the prostitute she used to be, until eventually she dies of their diseases. Hogarth using satire and irony created a grotesque series that criticized society in its corruption and sins, and not only chastised but evoked pity for Moll in that society adores the fall of a popular public figure.

Although this series was created in the 1700s, the motifs that encircle the very series- over-sexuality, morality, publicity of public figures and their downfall - still plague today, perhaps even more so. A modern example of the Molly Hackabout story would be that of Anna Nicole Smith. Though Anna Nicole Smith wasn’t a fictitious character, her story does resemble that of the fictitious character.

Anna Nicole’s career started out like that of Molly Hackabout, she was pulled into the modeling world and soon began posing for ‘Playboy’ magazine. Although she didn’t physically sell herself, she sold the image of herself in an over-sexualized way that made her popular and into a symbol of sex and beauty. Then soon after the very public and industry that built her up with attention and adoration turned on Anna as she started to lose her image and appeal as well as having questionable morality. Like the public punished Moll, Anna was scrutinized and punished by the paparazzi and the rest of the media. Then later she became addicted to pain pills which were probably influenced by her constant scrutiny from the media, which she later died from. With death came pity, yet still there was controversy, like Moll, in that her ‘bastard’ child was now in the middle over a huge paternity battle between three men.

Both women met their demise in the environment that created them and shared the same misfortunes of using sexuality to make a living, then being punished by hypocritical society, and eventually pitied in death.


In thinking about the reading assigned for this week I was interested in how common these etchings were, how accessible they were to the public, how these satirical images covered the city’s walls, and mocked everyday, urban life. However, I could not relate to these images, as is common with use of caricature and satirical images they often speak to contemporary and current moments of life, culture, and politics- and I am not Hogarth’s contemporary. The satire was lost on me, I do not know of the change in theatre, culture, and arts of that particular place in that particular time. I just finished reading Lolita in which Humbert refers to his neighbor as a pear-head, a joke that would have been entirely lost on me if I had not recently learned of the terms intentions and history. That said, there is an artist that is currently painting the walls of London with satirical images once again, he is speaking to a culture and a politics that I can relate to. He is Bristol born graffiti artist that goes by the pseudonym Banksy. His work is considered controversial due to the subject matter, the fact that it is painted on both public and private establishments around the world, and of course that it is graffiti. His works are a commentary on current issues such as surveillance, consumerism, recycling/ environmental, and are often political in nature.

Land Of Confusion

To watch video see site below.

In 1986 the band Genesis released their album Invisible Touch, which included the hit single "Land Of Confusion." For the music video to this song the band recruited Spitting Image; a British satirical puppet show. The name of the show is a word play on the phrase, but intended as an insult. Their Puppets were very detailed grotesque caricatures of celebrities and politicians of the time. The shows most popular character/caricature was U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who plays a significant part in the Genesis video; the video presented as his nightmare.
Puppets are always creepy.
This video contains more caricatures then I can count, so I'll just focus on a few. The band is caricatured by over-exaggerating their facial features, and their mostly kept aside from the rest of the video except for a parody of another music video; which was the all-star recording of the charity single "We are the World."
Heavily feature in the video are the Reagan family; Ronald, his wife Nancy, and for reasons I can't explain a Gorilla. Reagan is always shown as acting somewhat senile, confused, or absent minded. throughout the video he is drowning in a pool of his own sweat as a result of his nightmare. He dresses up as a cowboy, which reference his past film career and what was viewed by many to be his "Political Cowboy Attitude." He is also shown dressed up as Superman, a play on the "here he comes to save the day" or "heroic" perspective people had towards him, which came from political victories from on his foreign policy. An interesting touch is a sequence which depicts him as "Living in the Stone Age," which was a point made by his critics from his "back to basics" policy and slogans. At the end of the video he wakes up from his nightmare and attempts to call the nurse, but accidentally hits the wrong button and launches nuclear weapons, to which he replies, "Wow, that's some nurse."
One of my personal favorite caricature in the video is Leonard Nimoy as Spock trying and failing to solve a Rubik's Cube. Here is an incomplete list of people caricatured in the video: