Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pat Oliphant Draws From History

Leadership: Patrick Oliphant 
Cartoons From The Bush Years
Through 1.6.13
Fullerton Museum Center
Fullerton, CA
Five Scoops of Bosco

An Evening with Patrick Oliphant
Saturday 12.8.12 7 PM
Fullerton Museum Center

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

It's hard to put Political Cartoonist Patrick Oliphant's work into any particular box when staging a retrospective of his work.

Is it art?  Is it Political Commentary?  Is it a Historical Perspective?

How about all three.

So maybe it's fitting that his latest Installment, "Leadership: Cartoons From the Bush Years" appears in a Museum.

The Retrospective runs through January 6, 2013 at the Fullerton Museum Center in Fullerton, CA. Oliphant will be on hand at the Museum on Saturday December 8 to discuss his work and current issues.

The timing of the show is interesting as it started during the last month of the current Election.  In fact there is a separate wall of recent cartoons that ran during the Summer and Early Fall of the 2012 Election year on display here and many are not favorable to the Republican Candidate Mitt Romney.

One of the things from the art perspective, is the process of how Oliphant brings ideas to their final completion.  His original work is on display here with many of his thumbnail sketches when the ideas are just forming.

Oliphant's pen and art has cast a revealing spotlight on the absurd and sublime in American politics since he moved from Australia in 1964 to take a job at the Denver Post

So with all those years behind him, many providing a wealth of material..... Why focus on the George W. Bush Years?  Why not the Nixon years or the Carter Years?

"A bad year for the nation is usually a good year for a cartoonist. "And it was extremely good those  eight years," Oliphant said about the George W. Bush Presidency.

"The title leadership is an intended irony," Oliphant said about the exhibit. "The exhibit concentrates on Bush, but it's about leadership in general, and how it's a thing that must be questioned."

The images Oliphant creates can cause laughs out of the craziness of the age's political scandals.  One cartoon, for instance, shows a clueless Alberto Gonzales on a bulldozer that plows down a room filled with U.S. attorneys in "Mistakes were Made"

Somber topics are also depicted in tragic tones, as in the artist's "Iraq Pieta."

"A cartoon doesn't have to be funny," Oliphant once said. "There should be a seriousness reflecting the subject. When it's appropriate, it's a great vehicle for satire."

Oliphant is described by the New York Times as "the most influential editorial cartoonist now working".

His trademark is a small penguin character named Punk, who is often seen making a comment about the subject of the panel.  Images of Punk appear throughout the walls of this exhibit at the Fullerton Museum.

His images are black and white with almost no gray tones.   Villains are depicted with an ugly exaggeration of their physical features. A promise of justice can be seen though, with evil forces lurking in the background.

Oliphant's career began in 1952 as a copy boy with the Adelaide News in Australia. He worked as staff cartoonist for the Adelaide Advertiser until 1964, when he moved to the United States to take up a position with the The Denver Post.

His strip was nationally syndicated and then internationally syndicated in 1965. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1967 for his Februaary 1966 cartoon "They Won't Get Us To The Conference Table ... Will They?"

Oliphant moved to the Washington Star for six years, until the paper ceased publication in 1981.

Oliphant's work has appeared in several exhibitions, most notably at the National Portrait Gallery. He has also created a series of small sculptures based on his caricatures of various political figures and some displayed here alongside his drawings in this current exhibition in Fullerton.

Some of Oliphant's work has not come without criticism and an attempt to censor.

For instance, in 2007 and 2008, two Oliphant cartoons produced a call to censorship.

A cartoon about Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza sparked criticism among some American Jews. The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the cartoon denigrates and demonizes Israel and mimics the Nazi propaganda. It called on The New York Times and other media groups to remove the cartoon from their Web sites.

In 2008, Oliphant produced a cartoon which advocated that American citizens of Cuban descent should not be allowed to vote in national elections and that the United States should engage in ethnic cleansing against them.

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