Sacha Baron Cohen
“The Dictator (2012)”
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
The Dictator movie poster 2012 On Thursday, April 20, I had the privilege of viewing Sacha Baron Cohen’s newest film, The Dictator. When it comes to movie reviews screened ahead of the general release, it is challenging to discuss the film without ruining it for movie-goers.
The basic premise of the movie is that the dictator, Aladeen, of a figment country Wadiya must make a speech before the UN over its nuclear program under threat of NATO sanctions. The dictator arrives in New York, and through a series of events, finds himself beardless and unrecognizable to the public. He then hatches a plan to reclaim his role as leader and address the world.
Unlike Cohen’s previous movies, which use the mock-umentary filmmaking style; this movie finds itself along a more traditional story telling format. That being said, he is able to take the physical gags and uncomfortable scenarios that are the signature of his past films and incorporate them into The Dictator seamlessly.
Before seeing the film, I feared that Cohen would be too timid in addressing Middle Eastern dictators. Boy, was I wrong! The Dictator takes a real stab to the heart of concept of “benevolent ruler,” as well as their brutality and lavishness. As one might expect, this is not the most politically correct comedy. But don’t worry; Cohen is an equal opportunity satirist who dishes jokes and laughter to every segment of the population.
The central theme of the movie is Cohen’s desire to expose hypocrisy. Although terrorism is, on the surface, his main punching bag; Cohen addresses important issues at home and abroad. He attacks corruption in the oil industry/ big business, and makes an around about plea for healthcare and transparency in government. In many ways his attacks on dictators are only points of contrast and comparison to our society. This is the essence of good comedy.
Admiral General Alaadin holding the ashes of Kim Jun Il"While I gravitate to politics, there is something for everyone in this movie. The love interest is an important and fun part to the movie and a continuing source of gags and hilarity. (I would say more, but I’m desperately trying not to give anything away)
The Dictator is Sacha Baron Cohen’s finest film to date. If there were any doubts before, it is clear that Cohen is the heir to Mel Brooks’s legacy. From Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, the Marx Brothers Duck Soup and just about ever Mel Brook’s movie, Cohen knows his comedy history. Every aspect that goes into film, from music to costuming, has been carefully considered. He has the perfect balance of gags, physical comedy, turns of phrases, subtle allusion, and of course straight up Yiddish humor. I spent 90% of my time laughing and 10% of the time just trying to catch my breath. Come May 16th, 2012 you will be glad you saw the greatest film of the decade!Top
“Yeah Rite” Exhibition
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
For A Leader
acrylic on wood, 2011 Yeah Rite a painting exhibition by Polly Shindler, is the artist’s MFA thesis show at Pratt Institute. It consists of fourteen pieces, including a few mixed media works. Her paintings are all square, minimalist, abstract compositions painted in acrylic on canvas or wood panel. Shindler’s use of paint establishes the form and ground, which she uses to carve into revealing the undertones. The carving is reminiscent of scratchboard and allows for the formation of thin textural ridges.
acrylic on canvas, 2011 Five of her paintings use the black on color background motif, either florescent yellow/green or pink/orange. The use of black and bright colors plays with notions of foreground and recession. From afar the black recedes, but up close it becomes the surface of the painting. In some paintings, Shindler creates a textural history beneath the black background that reveals compositional elements and forms that have since been over-painted. The black paint is thick, sloppy, and quickly painted. It reminds me of tar pitch used on street blacktop. Three of the black background pieces incorporate gold leaf, which help build the theme of ancient/modern. She merges the concept of Grecian black and red figure pottery with the dayglo of modern graphic arts.
oil on canvas, 2011 The Golden Pluck is an excellent example. It uses the black background with a bright fluorescent red squarish shape appearing from beneath the thick black paint. The main figures is a large rough bounded harp shape made of gold leaf. She loosely carves in the string to allude to the musical instrument. Aerial Maneuver is another great composition. Its use of cyan, magenta, and turquoise reference print colors used in the digital and graphic arts. The composition begins to breech her pattern of central imagery. She deals deftly with a balance between clean taped off shapes and loose wide streaks. In Gold Teeth, Shindler almost completely covers her fluorescent ground, causing the black paint over top to warm. The gold leaf is laid in a broken manner to allow the undertones to peer through in specs. Even-though Build It BIG This Time is ironically a small painting, I am more interested in how the red background seems to burn through the carved grid of the central black shape.
GrabBird: It Works Like This
acrylic on canvas,2011 Her weakest painting is GrabBird. The central imagery mimics the shape of a plane or bomb in full dive. It is the most narrative of her work and uses little of the techniques established in the rest of her series. The scratch-work reveal the white canvas instead of the black background, a depart from the dialogue of surface she had been developing. A peace sign is blatantly revealed in the center in an obvious way, limiting other interpretations.
Also confusing is a collection of seven drawings that are hung as a group haphazardly. While they pick up on themes of grid/bounded shapes, the materials and size seem out of place in a painting exhibition. Although it is nice to see the origins of her visual language, and it would much better suite a separate drawing exhibition.
acrylic on wood, 2011 The exhibition title, Yeah Rite, sarcastically acknowledges the relationship between the arts and rituals. Shindler describes her artwork as “ a modern expression with something archaic, something I’m trying old.” Her accompanying artist statement is nothing more than a list of movie/song titles and pop-culture references strung together in list format. She gives little care to explore or offer understanding to her themes or technique. She simply states, “Things on my list are either traditional or horror movies or eerily emotional context during or after the artwork, nothing before.” Perhaps Shindler is too caught up in the act of creating to consider other implications of her artwork. And, for now, that’s fine by me.
To see more of Polly Shindler’s artwork visit, http://pollyshindler.tumblr.com/Top
by Joshua H. Stulman
held at the Jacob Javits Center Hadas Gallery was on the scene as the four day pop culture convention ushered in thousands of eager sci-fi fans. The convention floor at the Jacob Javits Center was packed with gaming stations, toy displays, and new comic related merchandise. Movie props were on display from Marvel’s upcoming Avengers movie with star Chris Evans and Stan Lee signing. Check out our articles on a rare Q/A by Jewish comic legend Joe Simon, creator of Captain America; Arlen Schumer’s lecture on creative rights for Jack Kirby; and a shocking movie review for which we’ve dubbed “The Passion of Muhammed.”
New York Comic Con 2011
“Friday, Oct. 14
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
Joe Simon: My Life in Comics
released 2011 Over 220 comic fans packed the large sectioned hall at the New York Comic Con 2011 to meet Joe Simon, the co-creator of Captain America. Like royalty, there was an announcement to the crowd to “make way”, then applause as booming voices sang “Happy Birthday” to the 98 year old comic veteran. Joe Simon, Marvel’s first editor, shook hands with fans as he made his way down the center aisle. When he came to the front of the stage, he got out of his wheelchair and walked up to take his seat at the center of the panel. Beside him was Steve Saffel, whose job it was to limit Simon’s telling of thousands of stories to fit the hour timeslot. Saffel is the editor of Simon’s latest autobiography “Joe Simon: My Life in Comics”. He recorded countless interviews with Simon over the past two decades, to which Simon responded “We gotta stop this taping…let’s write a book!”. This is Simon’s second autobiography, and was released over the summer.
Simon first addressed his recent stay in the hospital. Simon recounted, “The doctor said, ‘you just had a stroke’,… but they ran tests and said ‘you’re not ever going to have a senile affect.” The doctor continued, “You’ll die, but you’ll remember everything.” Simon joked, “well, I thought that was alright, I’ll write some more books...maybe some comic strips.”
Simon’s original 1941
concept sketch for Captain America
Finally published as a program cover in 1974 He continued, “News got around to all the workers in the hospital that I was involved with Captain America… I can still draw… so I spent my first day in the hospital drawing Captain America on the backs of medical reports and doctor sheets for all the nurses and workers.” Simon joked, “I do drawing for people, now they get these things and put them on Ebay.”
He told several stories, the first he began with, “All my life I’ve been searching for the great American hero”. One would think that he would go on to talk about the many characters and genre of comics he and Jack Kirby created in his lifetime. Instead he told a story of a Union soldier who had visited his elementary class, exciting his entire class by saying “Shake the hand, that shook the hand of Abe Lincoln”. As Simon told the story he also sang the opening verse to an old civil war song in a very clear and strong voice.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
created the romance genre that Marvel
used to revolutionize comic
in the 1960’sNoting his collaborator, Jack Kirby, Simon said, “Jack’s art was like nothing at DC,” The Simon and Kirby team was a staple to the comic industry in its early years. The versatile duo began in superheroes, and continued into horror, humor, and ultimately creating the genre of romance comics. Simon and Kirby were so prolific that they didn’t even copyright all their material. “Jack and I put out over a thousand pages of romance comics”, he said, “Now the parasites are coming out and they’re looking for the books that aren’t copyrighted.” Simon told the story of a Canadian publisher that was putting together a compilation of Simon and Kirby work now in the public domain. He said, “It took him five years to get together all the romance books.”
Simon gave a young Stan Lee his first work
as a short story in Captain America Comics #3" As the first editor of Marvel (then Timely comics), Simon gave a young Stan Lee his first work in comics as a written text for Captain America #3. Stan Lee would go on to become Marvel’s second editor and hold the position for thirty years. He noted, “Stan Lee was like child abuse… he said he was 17, but he tells different stories. Now he wants to be younger, then he wanted to be older…” He continued, “I like Stan, he’s a good man. I made him what he is today.” Simon noted Lee’s explosion in pop culture fame, and joked, “I read that he gets $50 for a signature, I only get $30!”
Simon also commented on the success of the recent Captain America movie. He noted that there was much political commentary on American patriotism. Simon mentioned how the movie studio believed “it [the movie title] wasn’t an item for overseas, Captain America…well it couldn’t be called Captain Greece”, he exclaimed. As the son of an immigrant, Simon’s patriotism has been a staple of his professional and personal life. In the aftermath of 9/11 he even recreated the cover to Captain America #1 substituting Hitler for Osama Bin Laden.
The Red Skull who first
appears in the last story of Captain
America Comics #1, March 1941In his final tale of the panel, Simon quickly described the creation of the infamous Nazi villain, the Red Skull. Simon recounts, “They said I needed a villain, well I already had one [Hitler].” Later on at the Kraft Ice Cream shop, Simon and Kirby worked on the idea. “I had a hot fudge Sunday and I see the cherry on top.”, Simon continues, “I say to Jack, ‘Squint your eyes, what do you see?’ Jack says, ‘I see a cherry.’” Simon noted that the chocolate dripped down and seemed to form legs for the bright red cherry. So he thinks, “Well, maybe I can make it a villain.” Simon concluded, “and I said, ‘Wow the Red Skull.’ Nobody else could see it.”
“Joe Simon- My Life in Comics” is published by Titan Books http://titanbooks.com/joe-simon-my-life-in-comics-3860/ (ISBN: 9781845769307).Top
New York Comic Con 2011
“Saturday, Oct. 15
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
Arlen Schumer argues to restore
creative credit to Marvel artists Dressed in a black sports coat overtop a Superman tee-shirt, and wearing a red cape bound by a gold chain, Arlen Schumer delivered an impassioned plea in favor of creator rights at the New York Comic Con. Schumer advocated to expand the Auteur theory of Film to the comic industry. The Auteur theory of Film is the common belief that the director, which has creative control over the production of a movie, should be seen as the primary author in difference to accessories such as scriptwriters, cinematographers, storyboard artists ect…. Schumer notes that the relationship is very close to the comic industry because of the visual nature of both mediums. The question Schumer’s lecture addresses is “who is the ‘director’ of a comic book?”
The panel was established in direct response to the recent court loss of the Kirby estate to Marvel/Disney. The case centered on creative rights to the Fantastic Four, Hulk, X-Men and many other characters that Jack Kirby helped create in the 1960’s for Marvel Comics. Much of the case involved the issue of authorship and the concept of “work for hire.”
Kirby’s original art w/ Stan Lee description,
Captain America #101 (May,1968) pg.1 Schumer argues that the nature of the “Marvel Method” of writing comic required freelance artists to also work in varying degrees as unpaid co-writers or storytellers. As editor and primary writer of much of Marvel Comics in the 1960’s, Stan Lee devised a short hand approach to comic writing. Unlike rival DC Comics which emphasized full written scripts and detailed scenarios, Lee would often give a general overview or thoughts on a particular story and let the artists take it from there. Lee would later add words when the final artwork was submitted.
Schumer supported his criticism with examples of development of several pages, from description, to layout, to roughs, finished pencils, and final product. Here, Schumer clearly showed how Marvel artists were not only active in creating the look, and environment of the visuals; but also the pacing of the story. Schumer explained that both film and comics are the based in visual communication. “The writer is creating the script of the page, shouldn’t he get credit?”, Schumer asked, “No, the act of the artist creates the comic experience.”
Night Fighter swiped from an
unused Fighting American cover However, Schumer admitted that authorship can be very mottled. He used the development of Spider-Man to illustrate this point. The idea of Spider-Man originally came from the Simon/Kirby studio in the 1950’s. It was recycled in C.C Beck’s Silver Spider and Jack Kirby’s own Night Fighter pitch, which showed a more heroic figure able to climb up walls. It wasn’t until Steve Ditko devised the Spider-man version we know today, that the hero became iconic. Schumer explains, “It is the visual creation that by defacto creates a 50% relationship.”
Stan Lee, as editor and later
publisher, promotes the Marvel brand Today, Stan Lee is widely recognized as the creator of the Marvel universe of characters. In fact, for decades Marvel printed “Stan Lee presents” on the title page of every comic even if Lee made no contribution to the issue. He has made cameo appearances in recent comic movies for characters he did not create, such as Captain America, and has become a pop culture celebrity. Schumer argues that the court upheld that Lee was author and thereby creator of the Marvel characters. “The problem is, writers get more credit than artists despite the visual medium.”, said Schumer. Schumer went onto theorize that because academia gives more emphasis to literary studies/ criticism, people are more comfortable to attribute authorship to writers.
Schumer was joined by a number of panelists that included John Morrow of the Jack Kirby Collector, and J.David Spurlock, of Vanguard Publishing. Spurlock, who knew Kirby personally, reminded the audience of the legal implications of a trademark. “A comic character is a trademark, and a trademark is copy and visual”, Spurlock said. It is important to note that the “work for hire” clause was introduced in the Copyright Act of 1976, almost two decades after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby began creating the Marvel characters. The recent court decision in favor of Marvel and Disney is currently under appeal.
As I listened to the lecture, I wondered if Kirby’s legacy is victim to the last man standing. Isn’t it interesting that all the big budget Marvel movies began in 2000, over six years after Jack Kirby died? Since 2000 Stan Lee has become a household name enjoying a celebrity appeal outside the comics realm. Comic Con attendees wait in long lines that wind around the convention floor just for a raffle ticket to meet Lee, and crowds of photographers block aisles just to get a photograph. Eventhough Kirby has received creative credit in the opening sequences to many of the movies; his estate has yet to see a dime from the film adaptations. If Kirby were still alive today, it is almost assured that New York Comic Con attendees would be falling over themselves to get a chance to meet the true “King of Comics.”Top
New York Comic Con 2011
Sunday, Oct. 16
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
Essential Killing movie poster (2010) As I looked through the program of panels for New York Comic Con, I came across the one titled Essential Killing. The program describes the film as a story about a Taliban fighter who is “relentlessly pursued…by an army that does not ‘officially’ exist.” The description continues, “A critically acclaimed, thinking man’s action thriller, Essential Killing tells the story of one man’s struggle for survival, where morality has no place as he confronts the necessity to kill in order to survive.”
The room was about a third full with an estimate of forty people in attendance. Most attendees were college age. Just before the lights dimmed, a young lady burst into the room and asked in a condescending voice “Show of hands. Who is here for Vincent Gallo?” Some people timidly raised their hands. “And who’s here for a free movie?” she sneered. She quickly turned and darted out of the room as an audience member asked, “And who are you?” No answer. Honestly, that’s not too weird for comic con.
As the movie began I was immediately drawn to the scenic atmospheres. First, of the “Afghanistan” desert (filmed in Israel), and then the Polish winter forest later in the movie. The locations were beautiful contrasts of nature. Natural sound was also important as you could hear the wind howling as it swept over the sand in the opening sequence. The theme of invader/indigenous is an overarching concept that is carried throughout the storyline as well as the cinematography.
The movie begins in the Afghan desert as three lone US soldiers make their way to a small rocky crevice. The two white soldiers are loud, crude, and obnoxious. They wear black sunglasses, one has a red beard and talks with a clear southwestern accent. The Arabian desert-garb looks goofy on them, and only singles them out as foreigners. They walk unassumingly through the sand with as much carelessness as their backyard. One tells the other of how he enlisted after 9/11 when he had a vision about the anti-Christ. The two continue in an “Abbot and Costello”-esque dialogue. They are contrasted by the lead soldier, a serious and alert African American, who quietly and carefully guides the pair along the narrow passage. The two men decide to rest and begin to smoke some marijuana. They ridicule their guide, referring to him as “Three-Fifths,” a blatant racial slur. At first I thought that it was bad acting, but then I realized that it’s not the acting at all. The director wants these two soldiers to look and act like a cartoon character of what he imagines the US army to be.Army can’t seem to hit the target
The viewer is then introduced to the protagonist, the unimaginatively named Muhammad, as he hides in short cut snippets among the smaller crevices watching the US soldiers. He breathes heavily, as if morally conflicted and scared. However, its unclear if the soldiers are actually looking for him of if they’re looking for a spot to smoke up. One soldier overhears Muhammad’s whimpering and compares it to the sound of a baby crying. Muhammad is introduced from the onset as the innocent native searching for survival. So its only natural that Muhammad pulls out a bazooka and blows away all three soldiers at near blank range- guess it’s just an “essential killing.”
He’s certainly not morally concerned about his actions. He hurries through the sand but to no avail. An army helicopter picks him up and then comically starts firing at him. All the bullets naturally miss. Its only when they launch a missile, close range at the lone Taliban terrorist, do they knock him down. Soldiers surround him and he is taken to an army base.the obligatory waterboarding scene
The director, Jerzy Skolimowski, than walks the viewer through an exaggerated and overly dramatic treatment of Taliban prisoners. Lots of dogs barking uncontrollably, and army soldiers yelling and pushing around Muhammad and others. The prisoners’ heads are bagged and later on subjected to a brutal interrogation and the obligatory water boarding, which actually doesn’t look that painful.
It’s important to mention that Muhammad looks like an Arab version of Jesus. It was at this point in the movie that I realized that the director is basically going to treat us to a Muslim passion play. We later find out that Muhammad is interrogated for attending a religious service. This mirrors much of Jesus’s persecution by Rome for his unsanctioned views.
Muhammad is transferred to an unknown location in Eastern Europe, much like the US interrogation centers. By an act of fate (or G-d?), the vehicle transferring Muhammad conveniently crashes. He emerges from the wreck holding his arms out like a crucifix as he escapes into the cold polish forest. For the next hour of film, the viewer is treated to repetitive scenes of Muhammad’s “struggle” for survival. This begins with his apparent constant need to eat. First, he sneaks up on two US soldiers on patrol, which he promptly kills, stealing their gun and voraciously eating the scraps of food in their vehicle. In other separate scenes he eats, bugs, moss or tree bark, and berries that apparently cause him to have a vision. With all his feasting, you’d think the messianic Muhammad would say a prayer for his food? Later on in the film, Muhammad literally steals a fish to survive as he devours it raw stumbling away from an ice fisherman.
Muhammad incurs several wounds throughout his escape. The first comes when he steps on a bear trap. He also falls down the side of a cliff, hitting every landing along the way like in a cartoon. An army ranger’s dog attacks him. Muhammad is injured once more as he wrestles and ultimately beheads a forest logger with a buzz saw.a starving Muhammed holds a
But not to worry, Muhammad is a compassionate man. He frees a dog from a bear trap. He chooses NOT to kill two women in the film. Although he does hold a breastfeeding woman at gunpoint as he sexual molests her by drinking her milk. Did I mention that Muhammad is a hungry guy?
The “passion of Muhammad” is a terribly blatant theme. He is ruthlessly pursued by a foreign government. He suffers emotional torment by his captors. He prays in captivity and has visions in the wilderness. Muhammad is garbed in a pure white arctic suit. He is wounded several times, including a deep wound on his right side mimicking that of Jesus left by the spear of Longinus. Muhammad is constantly stumbling in the forest mirroring scenes from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ movie. At the conclusion of the film, Muhammad is cared for by a Mary Magdalene figure on Christmas Eve. The woman purposely misleads the authorities. She attempts to dress his wounds, clothe, wash, and feed him. The woman looks on him in constant awe as if struck by a divine presence. Finally Muhammad leaves the forest village on a white horse. Although his wounds were thought to be healed, he begins to bleed slowly at first onto the white mane of his horse. Ultimately Muhammad bleeds to death, drenching the horse in his blood. As the film concludes, the white horse emerges from the forest, a messianic reference to Jesus’s return.
I always enjoy how comically liberal filmmakers attempt to appropriate Christian themes to portray the victimhood of Muslim terrorists. With a film called Essential Killing, none of Muhammad’s victims seemed ‘essential’. He murders five US soldiers in cold blood, kills a dog, beheads an innocent forest logger, and sexual molests a woman trying to feed her baby. The director attempts to justify Muhammad’s actions as acts of survival. In a flashback scene Muhammad remembers his teachings Quran 2:216 “Warfare is ordained onto you even if you hate it.” The director’s target audience is a bit unclear. Skolimowski struggles with how to show a terrorist as an innocent martyr. He conveniently avoids addressing Taliban acts of terrorism against Muslim women, tribal leaders, and the general Islamic public in suicide bombings. The title, characterization of the US army, and innocent portrayal of the protagonist heavily relate its anti-American/anti-war message. Despite this, Muhammad’s apparent lack of any moral fortitude would be most insulting to a Muslim audience.
As the film ended, only 15 people remained. There was no applause. The panel table was empty and it became clear that the Q&A session I was waiting for would not take place. My previous questions of moral equivalence were resolved just by watching the film. What remained was my original question pertaining to the choice of audience. The film had nothing to do with science fiction, video games, or comic books; so why was it screened at the largest comic book convention on the east coast? Noting that the average age of attendees fell in the impressionable college years, could this be an attempt at political indoctrination? I decided to ask some of the remaining attendees why they came to the screening. With a name like “Essential Killing”, some who didn’t read the program description thought it would be about zombies or horror fiction. “It wasn’t what we were expecting at all,” an attendee said. “It was insulting to show to an American audience”, a lady explained. She continued, “ I come to comic con to have fun not politics.” What I noticed most about the people I talked with was the lack of affect the movie had. It’s as if the audience was fatigued by the constant bombardment of anti war messaging over the past decade. Is it possible that Essential Killing’s passé anti American imagery was self-defeating?
New York Comic Con is often a great market test for the teen/college dynamic. This year, Captain America was notably the most publicized character. The co-creator, Joe Simon at 98 years old gave a lecture and rare signing. Marvel Comics centered their entire presentation on the upcoming Avengers movie. Fans lined throughout the convention floor at a chance to meet Captain America actor, Chris Evans, as well as many attendees who dressed up as Captain America themselves. A few years ago, Essential Killing might have been screened to a packed audience with fans and press reporters lining up to ask questions from a panel. But instead, Essential Killing suffered a near walk out, relegated to a small room on a late afternoon slot of the last convention day.Top
“Abased and Abound” Painting Series
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
Love Knot 3 2011Abased and Abound, by Caroline deCamp, explores abstraction in found object assemblages. The twelve piece series utilizes discarded security envelopes, which deCamp reassembles into grid compositions bounded within the square. The artwork ranges in size with pieces as large as five feet.
The exhibition is curated by Ryan Earl who regards deCamp’s artwork as “ambitious because of the material, which would otherwise be discarded.” deCamp considers her artwork as “ephemeral” and has spent years hoarding security envelopes from family and friends. The inside of the security envelopes reveal a great variety of patterning, ordinarily used to conceal legibility of the contents, usually cash or personal checks. The patterns range from simple hatching to ornate arabesque designs, spiral graph type patterns, dot dispersions, ect… and mirror the screen tone patterns found in graphic illustrations. deCamp finds a subtle infusion of color into her artwork through the natural grey tones, blues, and reds found in the inks of the envelope. The designs are so numerous that deCamp created names such as “pinhead black” and “wood grain” to help manage her collection. deCamp’s use of screen tone patterns allow for careful choices in her distribution of black which introduce a quiet complexity into her overarching compositions.
deCamp began her series in 2005, basing her compositions on existing quilt patterns. She used a guidebook to discover the hundreds of quilt patterns available. “Quilts have stories that are passed down,” she explains. Much like history itself, she says the pieces “grow organically.” Most of her earlier pieces were either destroyed or reworked. deCamp notes, “there are so many quilting blocks” but laments that most sources consist of pattern indexes with little reference to history. All the titles are named for the particular quilt pattern reflected in the imagery. Half the exhibition alone is based on the “Love Knot” quilt design.
The “Love Knot” design is used in six separate pieces in the exhibition. It is a simple loop that reaches diagonally from the top left corner. A second loop intersects the first in the middle as it reaches up from the bottom right corner. It is often challenging to present a repetition of a simple design. Each piece treats the composition with a different approach to tone, color, and rhythm. deCamp reveals a freshness that allows them to work both in relation to the series and stand as a singular artwork.
Love Knot 3, is especially appealing to me. It is hung second in a series of four that stretch the length of the gallery wall. The piece has a limited tonal range, which creates subtle transitions. The pink glue strips from the underside of the envelope act as a rhythmic marker as well as a natural insertion of color. The composition is further unified by ambiguous areas of diffused pink hues that faintly bleed through the paper. A small portion of the clear plastic envelope window adds a touch of material contrast. It is placed just off-center and perfectly balanced by a similar shape directly below.
In Building the Stars, deCamp uses the “weathervane” pattern. The piece consists of a 36 square composition. Seemingly symmetrical each quadrant is different either in line quality, pattern or tears. Rips both remind the viewer of the material source but also serve to break up any hints of repetition. The same can be said for the lightly yellow dried glue strips that appear only twice in the composition. It is clear that deCamp enjoys the challenge of creating deceivingly complex details within a simple framework.
The title of the show Abased and Abound derives from the New Testament Philippians 4:12 which deals with learning to live a content life through times of prosperity and economic hardships. The title, her use of security envelopes, and of course our current economic downturn, beg to question deCamp’s contemporary commentary. However deCamp remains adamant that while she understands that viewers may read economic or feminist commentary due to her materials and source inspiration, deCamp does not view her work as political. “I want to keep it abstract” deCamp continues, “I think of them as drawings not collages because of the process.” She considers the white tears in the envelopes as erasure marks, while the hatching of the security patterns naturally lend themselves to linear mark-making.
Abased and Abound is one of these exhibitions that are much more than what they appear at first. If you take the time to involve yourself within the artwork, you will be pleasantly rewarded. Earl describes the series as “big but quiet…it has alot for you, you can spend alot of time and go over details.” What I realize now as I write this review, is that deCamp has infused found object assemblage with a painter’s mastery of time-release. The longer the viewer remains with the artwork, the more subtleties are revealed. In Abased and Abound, Caroline deCamp reminds us to return to our work and explore what we love.
Response Art Series
Sept. 1- 14, at 220 36th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
“Friends 4 Ever”, “Gave Us Life”, and “Loves You”
Mezrachi, JordanThe Response Art Series addresses the tension of Israel and Zionism in the fine arts community. The exhibition presents a collection of artwork that challenges the negative portrayal of Israel within a majority of the fine arts establishment.
The exhibition was organized by curator Sheryl Intrator Urman to counter an epidemic of anti Israel artwork that has permeated galleries and art institutions over the past decade. It is the culmination of two years of planning and coordinating with several art and Israel advocacy organizations. The Response Art Series features twenty-seven artists and over seventy artworks.
For many in the arts, Zionism is a dirty word. Shalom Gorewitz, artist and juror, noted in his lecture that a simple google image search of the term reveals countless anti-Semitic artworks and photographs. When art galleries feature the subject matter, it is always from the victim-hood perspective of Palestinians. Gorewitz describes these exhibitions as “bitter, hateful, and so negative about the other side.”
What separates the Response Art Series from others on the subject is not only the political perspective but also a positive thematic tone. The artwork in the exhibition addresses the spiritual connotations of land and water, pride in the historic Jewish identity, and a strong stance against violence.
Eye of the Dance
Katzenelson, RosaIn “Eye of the Dance”, painter Rosa Katzenelson uses vibrant color and sweeping gestures to evoke a dizzying sense of celebration. Her bold uses of color create a rhythmic patchwork that unifies the composition. The painting is packed with figurative details that recede into the abstracted brushwork. Her painting reveals a love of poetic reference and playful approach to imagery.
The simple and raw expressions of pride are key to Jacob Mezrachi’s paintings “Friends 4 Ever”, “Gave Us Life”, and “Loves You”. These three paintings recreate the Israeli flag with spay paint on wood panel. Hung as a horizontal triptych, the three flags have the respective phrases “I Love”, “Gave Us”, “Gives Me Hope” scrawled in red spray paint. The colors usage fuses the Israeli flag with the color scheme of America. It invokes a sense of patriotism and an understanding of both countries as allies in the face of terrorism.
Newman, EllenEllen Newman presents a compelling twist on the Purim festival in her painting “Purim Re-Visited.” The painting is organized using the framework of a medieval manuscript page. The central image depicts the scene of Haman leading the victorious Mordechai through the streets of Shushan on a white horse. But there is one major difference; Haman is painted with the features of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In contrast, Mordechai has the features of Holocaust awareness advocate, Eli Wiesel. Above the scene, icons appear in four pointed arches. On the right, Esther and Ahashveiros appear with the respective likeness of Kadima party leader Zippi Livni, and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai. The left two windows feature allegories of remembrance and responsibility in the guise of Anne Frank, and the artist’s father. The painting makes use of the didactic language of the manuscript. Each figurative and design element serves a purpose. Newman’s integration of textile patterning uses the triangle as an overt reference to the Jewish star. The painting re-appropriates the concept of the Christian Passion play to show an optimistic eternal triumph over anti-Semitism.
What I enjoy the most is the diversity of technique and the sense of artistic community. The inclusion of emerging artists and seasoned professionals tears at the often hierarchical gallery system. There is a sense of equality that permeates the exhibition.
The gallery space itself occupies the bottom floor of a factory buildings converted to art studios by the docks. The lighting is haphazard and the space is lined with temporary makeshift walls whose fresh white paint creates a vivid contrast from the gritty floor and industrial columns. This is not Chelsea. This is not the establishment. It is one of these places that you visit and instinctively know that this is where the real art happens.
Jin Young Koh
“Bodyscapes” Painting Series
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
36”x48”. Oil on canvas. 2011With a title like “Bodyscapes”, Jin Young Koh, places his subject matter at the forefront of his artwork. His paintings depict figurative forms abstracted through their close up cropping. His work focuses on the creasing and folding of flesh while retaining its body structure. Through the development of his series, it becomes less clear whether the references are real or imagined. As I move through the series and become more familiar with Koh’s language, his juxtaposition of lighting, form, and color take on a subject matter all of their own.
32”x32”. Oil on canvas. 2011Dramatic lighting is key to Koh’s paintings. His unabashed use of stark lighting contrast is reminiscent of the Tenebrist influence of the early baroque period. The lighting scenarios are limited and tightly focused on an area of the form. This creates a spotlight affect that allows the body to recede into the shadows. The most extreme examples of this lighting use are apparent in Bodyscape #1 and Bodyscape #2. In these paintings, there is a clear absence of atmospheric lighting. The form is cast into the blackness of the shadow as the light reveals only the planar surface. The sides of the forms fall into shadow so quickly, it is difficult to derive the mimetic reference.
32”x32”. Oil on canvas. 2011Koh’s colors are dependent on his lighting conditions. In the painting above his colors respond to the traditional flesh tones that refer to a warm candlelight. Here his tonal transitions are natural. However throughout the “Bodyscapes” series, his lighting changes. Bodyscape #3 has a cool blue light that allows the use of aqua greens and tonal grey blues to establish the form with warmer shadows. While the structure is clear, his handling of skin gives the appearance of cadaver. He is departing from illustration and pushing the brashness of his green, blue, and pink highlights. He explores his use of green-yellow tones in Bodyscape #5. Here he allows ambient light to reveal the green shadows and undersides of the folded skin. The colors are almost unnatural. The green is a strong toxic green, which helps the color abstraction. This is perhaps his clearest painting of subject matter. The extreme perspective reveals the chest and head in the background.
36”x36”. Oil on canvas. 2011The perspectives of these paintings encourage the reading of abstraction. The canvases themselves are approximately 3 feet square. The square canvas provides Koh with a compositional challenge. His first three paintings are consistent in ground/atmosphere relation typical of a traditional landscape. However in his later three paintings, he turns the attention to the surface and eradicates atmosphere from the composition. Bodyscape #4 becomes a play on the spiral form while Bodyscape #6 reinforces angular edges.
40”x40”. Oil on canvas. 2011When artists abstract from the body, the viewer will immediately play the guessing game “what part of the body is this?” This presents the artist with a difficult challenge. If the viewer can only interpret the work in terms of the source of the abstraction, the series will become a repetition and ultimately boring. Koh’s “Bodyscapes” uses the body as means to segue into a discussion on traditional elements of abstraction rather than realism. His broken brushwork, color choice, and compositional cropping all reveal an artist more interested in the act of creating diverse abstractions from a narrow theme. It is through Koh’s creativity that the work will define itself. In seeing the range of composition through the first six paintings of “Bodyscapes”, it leaves me wondering what the next six will look like.
First Avenger”, for Russian release July 28, 2011In March 1941, more than six months before Pearl Harbor, one colorful American hero had already joined the battle- Captain America. The front cover showed its titular hero punching Hitler straight in the face, sending the ridiculous looking Furher tumbling. With that single unforgettable image, the Nazi ideal of the Aryan ubermensch was subverted.
Captain America was one of the first comic book characters to enlist in World War II and became an instant phenomenon. (The first being the similarly dressed Shield from Archie Comics, Jan. 1940, and the eponymous named Uncle Sam for Quality Comics, July 1940)
Like his predecessors Superman and Batman, Captain America was also created by two young second-generation Jewish artists. Writer Joe Simon and illustrator Jack Kirby’s character was an instant hit selling almost one million copies an issue. With the success of Simon and Kirby’s character many comic companies joined in. Miss Victory (Aug. ’41) for Holyoke, Miss America (Aug. ‘41) for Quality Comics, and Captain Flag (Sept. ‘41) for Archie Comics. Fawcett Comics debuted Minute-Man (Dec. ‘41) while Harvey Comics had The Spirit of ’76. DC Comics debuted Mister American (Feb. ‘41) , the Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy (Sept. ‘41) , and Liberty Belle (Dec. ‘42). Marvel Comics also rolled out several patriotic follow-ups to Captain America including the Patriot (Spring ‘41), and Miss America (Nov. ‘43). Patriotic heroes enjoyed great support by the American public and even abroad. “He [Captain America] was our way at lashing out against the Nazi menace.”, Simon would later comment.
Captain America #1 (1941) introduces the superhero’s alter ego Steve Rogers. A sickly Depression-era child, Rogers tries to enlist in the military. Too feeble to join the regular forces, he volunteers for a top-secret military medical experiment headed by Dr. Reinstein (a very Jewish name that sounds suspiciously like “Albert Einstein.”) The doctor injects Rogers with a Super-Soldier serum.
Unfortunately, a Nazi spy infiltrates the experiment and kills Dr. Reinstein, leaving Rogers the serum’s sole beneficiary. Hailed by the U.S. military as a superhuman savior, Rogers dons a patriotic costume of red, white, and blue with a star on his chest and stripes on his waist. Captain America’s most important early assignment is to destroy his evil counterpart, a Nazi agent called the Red Skull.
Captain America and his sidekick Bucky spend the war defending the home front against Nazi saboteurs, monsters, and Japanese spies. After the war, their adventures continued as they take on the mob fighting gangsters and corruption. In keeping with current interests, their adventures turned surreal toward the end as they briefly encountered the Wee-men (ala Gulliver's Travels) and space aliens. Captain America proved increasingly unpopular. The last issue of Captain America (Feb. 1950) didn’t even feature the titular character and instead was converted to a horror comic.
In the mid 1950’s, the dynamic duo of Simon and Kirby were called on again to create another patriotic hero, the Fighting American, which debuted for Harvey Comics in April 1954. The very next month Marvel Comics resumed Captain America’s fight for the American way, this time against communist China and the USSR. However both characters lasted only a handful of issues before their respective company’s retired their adventures for another decade. Ever since his second revival in Avengers #4 (March 1964) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Captain America finally recaptured his golden age glamour as a big hit enjoying a successful series numbering over 600 issues and counting.
This summer Captain America blasts onto the big screen. While this will not be the first time the star spangled hero has received the cinematic treatment, it is the first to receive the blockbuster treatment. Along with a significant boost in budget there will be a second significant change- will Captain America be “American”?
In an age of anti-Americanism the director and star of the film have been playing down the American angle. The director, Joe Johnston’s statements like, “…this is not about America so much as it is about the spirit of doing the right thing”, seem to doubt America as the champion of freedom. Actor Chris Evans, who plays Captain America states, “I’m not trying to get too lost in the American side of it. This isn’t a flag-waving movie.”
In fact, you would think this would be the perfect movie for a July 4th weekend release, instead of its July 22 date. There’s an obvious unease about the patriotism of the character called “Captain America”. But haven’t we seen this before?
Sensitivities to Americanism have increasingly caused subtle changes by movie companies in an effort not to jeopardize global box office potential. Editing foreign language releases to make them more palatable for specific regional audiences has been an accepted practice in the industry for years. (Just check out the Arabic version of Disney’s Aladdin.) But this new trend is different because it predicts concerns, and preemptively changes elements of the character or script to fit a global model.
In a post 9/11 world, this global concern has become increasingly prevalent in comic book movies. It began with the CGI removal of the Twin Towers from the first Spiderman movie in 2001. It became much clearer in Warner Brothers revival of the Superman franchise in the 2006. Superman Returns makes a point to internationalize the hero by depicting him stopping various crimes in France, Germany, Ireland, and Shanghai among others. The newsroom scene received media attention for the script having Perry White hand Lois Lane the assignment to cover the hero’s return asking, “Does he still stand for truth, justice… all that stuff?” All that Stuff?! We used to call that the “American Way”.
The 2009 the movie adaptation based on Hasbro’s eighties cartoon/toyline G.I Joe: A Real American Hero went further. The title was cut down to G.I Joe, the iconic logo with the American flag was removed, and the storyline transformed the American anti terrorist group into an international peacekeeping task force that seemingly answer to the United Nations.
The cinema has always been a powerful tool to project a nation’s pride and values. Some of our greatest films like Casablanca come from this spirit. The early Jewish comic creators, many of whom were barely immigrants themselves, seized on the cinema and created movies with word balloons and action filled panels. By literally cloaking their character in patriotism, Kirby and Simon became true Americans. But today it seems, the movie industry is shifting from its American pride to protect its box office bundle. Is the American brand really that risky?
In its foreign release the American pop culture icon, Captain America, is retaining its “Captain America: First Avenger” title. However in Russia, Ukraine, and Korea, the movie will be known only as “The First Avenger”. This begs the question whether the studios are using the movie as a testing ground for the American brand. How will America be presented in the movie? Will the movie be a blockbuster in the international markets? Well, as I haven’t seen the movie, we will just have to wait for its release this week. Until then, we are left only to ponder if we have now entered an era where, for the time being, superheroes stand for…”all that stuff.”
Iron Man 1 ,1968There are few people from Marvel’s silver age that have had as a distinctive graphic style as Gene Colan. Colan’s style is known for varied tones and rough descriptive linework. His ink pen-work was unique and seemed to mimic the gritty tones of a 6b pencil. He began his career in the mid 1940’s. Colan is best known for his work at Marvel in the 1960’s-70’s, although he also worked for DC on Batman in the early 80’s. He was the signature artist for Daredevil, illustrating most of the Man without Fear’s formulative adventures in many of the first hundred issues. He is known for his compositions, a key example being Iron Man #1 (1968). His covers reveal a sense of action and storytelling, that go well beyond a simple pinup. In the 1970’s he returned to his roots in horror comics and completed his masterpiece, illustrating the entire 70 issue series of Tomb of Dracula. He is noted as the creator of the Falcon in Captain America and for the character Blade, the vampire slayer, made popular by the Wesley Snipes movies of the late 90’s.
Gene Colan was born in the Bronx, New York in 1926 and died June 23, 2011 of liver disease at the age of 85. He was active in comics his whole life and recently won the Eisner Award for his artwork on Captain America #601 (Sept/ 2009).
Multi Media Sculpture
Review by Joshua H. Stulman
Eunkyung Bae recent works
Untitled, 2011 When I first walked into the exhibition space I couldn’t help but be drawn to a giant multicolored arrow that streams across a 25-foot wall. Its colors are interspersed and, from a distance, they mimic the short brush strokes of an impressionist painter. The colors are sharp and vibrant. But these are not brushstrokes or even paint. When the viewer gets closer it becomes obvious that the colors are actually rubber bands knotted together. They are held in place by little nails that help guide the form, in this case an arrow.
Untitled, 2011Eunkyung Bae’s greatest asset is her playful interactions with objects and materials. Her work is about form and color. Her bright palette is visually attractive and its presentation has a lighthearted air of play.
One untitled piece features yellow yarn tightly wrapped over a wooden frame. The yarn mimics what would usually have been canvas. An opening in the center of the piece reveals a black void held together by a single vertical red string. It gives the appearance of a slashed canvas. The Dadaist influence is a profound element in the artwork. It is the glue that relates humor to formal observations.
Untitled, 2011Bae presents an impossible scenario in another untitled work. The artwork features a web of black and white intertwined chord. A brand new red handled scissor is placed at the center. The webbing is threatened to be cut. The cartoony-ness of the chord in size and color remind me of a Wiley Coyote “acme” contraption. The chord is so thick it could never be cut. The scissor actually acts as a crutch to keep the webbing suspended out from the wall.
Untitled, 2011Her playful interactions with objects are especially true for this untitled piece. A yellow balloon seeps out from the left side. Its half inflated figure seems almost organic. Here, her signature colored yarn fills the inside of a clean perfect electrical box. The yarn beams out from holes on the sides of the metal box and bands around its surface. It mimics electrical wiring. As usual, the colors are vibrant: yellow, orange, electric blue, hot pink. They create a great contrast to the coolness of the metal box.
Different points of view provide a surprising formal relationship between the artworks. One example is the manner by which Bae’s large arrow seems to continue its form in another untitled piece, if viewed from the side. Despite their being mounted on different walls with significant space between, both relate to the angular form and continued vibrancy.
Awkward Embrace, 2011I enjoy Bae’s artwork for its lighthearted tone. However the only piece that is difficult to find relevance is Awkward Embrace (one of the only pieces with an actual title). It features joined construction gloves that form a suspended ring. The red rubber reinforcement gives the appearance of blood. It seems out of place with possible political overtones. It is thematically disjunctive and does not fit her other uses of color and interaction.
Eunkyang Bae’s artwork exudes a sense of material exploration. The artwork is executed and presented in a clean manner. It is like graphic design sculpture. Her colors are clear and bright. Eunkyang Bae’s artwork is fun, and that is one of the most important aspects of the fine arts.
Wizard’s Big Apple Con Spring Edition
at the Penn Plaza Pavilion May 21-22 2011, 2011 Last week, Hadas Gallery went to Wizard’s Big Apple Con Spring Edition at the Penn Plaza Pavilion. It was a weekend of comic creators, media personalities and everything else pop culture. There are plenty of “interesting” costumes, and Q/A presentations scheduled throughout the weekend. Legendary Jewish comic creators were in attendance from over 70 years of comic history- and even some Pratt Institute graduates.
Neal Adams - Guest of HonorNeal Adams, was the guest of honor. Adams is responsible for two major contributions to the comic art medium. He was instrumental in revitalizing comic art as figurative drawing in the mid 60’s. He, along with writer Denny O’Neil, injected the comic medium with realism returning Batman to his dark crime-solving past, addressing the social ills of drug-use, as well as political injustice. But not just a comic artist, Adams brought his sense of justice to the issue of creative rights. He was instrumental in restoring creative credits to Superman’s Jewish creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Over the past twenty years, Adams has been pioneering “animatics” technology, which brings storyboards to life. He is currently working on a series of motion comic animatic episodes with Disney, emphasizing heroes of the Holocaust. The first episode “Messenger from Hell” was screened at Wizard’s Big Apple Con. for more see- Motion Comic review
Jerry Robinson signing
his biography Also at the con was Jerry Robinson, creator of the infamous Batman villain, the Joker. He was signing copies of his biography, “Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics” by N.C Christopher Couch. The 89-year-old comic veteran began his career as an inker on early issues of Batman. He was a collaborator with Bob Kane and Bill Finger that lead to the creation of Joker and Batman’s sidekick, Robin. In fact, Robinson’s own Joker card was used as source reference for the character. Robinson went on to draw the caped crusader as well as a number of other superhero well into the 1950’s.
But Robinson was not only a comic artist. He was a successful commercial artist. Although a Colombia graduate, he taught commercial drawing for a year at Pratt Institute. Robinson was also a contributor to the early archiving of Comic history and had the foresight to rescue many pages of comic artwork from the trash. He fought for creator rights along with Neal Adams in the 1970’s and continues to make artwork today. (for more see- upcoming interview with Robinson)
Jeff Lee ’10 & Ken Marion ’10
comic book “Real Heroes”Pratt Institute was not only represented by Jerry Robinson, but also recent graduate Ken Marion ‘10. Marion is one of the freshest talents breaking into comics. He was there along with colorist Jeff Lee ’10, to promote their new comic “Real Heroes.” Marion describes the comic as a “super hero spy thriller set in the near future.” He was busy signing comics and doing sketches. Marion’s other upcoming projects for Bluewater Productions include a 22-page biography comic of Vincent Price. He is also the new artist for “The Misadventures of Adam West,” a comic centered on the former Batman actor finding a magical amulet. for more visit
All in all, the Wizard Big Apple Con offered something for everyone… and yes, even storm troopers.
Neal Adams and Rafael Medoff, 2011“Messenger from Hell: The Jan Karski Story” was screened at Wizard Big Apple Con on Sunday May 22 to a crowd of 60 comic fans and educators. It is the first episode in a ten episode series called They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust. The series feature stories “about the people who fought back.” The motion comic is produced by comic legend Neal Adams in conjunction with Disney Educational Productions and the Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. The episodes are written by historian, Raphael Medoff, with art and narration by Adams and others. Marvel Comics legendary writer/editor Stan Lee lent his talents as narrator for “Messenger of Hell” and Joe Kubert, famous Sgt Rock artist, even inked some of the storyboards. The series is a project crafted by the top talent of the comic industry.
Karski meets with Polish Jews
in “Messenger from Hell”, 2011The episode that was screened focused on Jan Karski and his efforts to raise awareness in America and Europe of the atrocities committed against the Jews at Izbica camp and the Warsaw Ghetto. Because he was a Catholic, the Polish resistance felt he would be able reach a wider audience. He brought his message to Pope Pius XII, British officials, and BBC radio with mixed results. Arthur Koestler wrote articles and a book based on Karski’s experiences. In America he met with Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter who said that he “was unable to believe him.” In his hour-long meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt, his descriptions of the atrocities committed against the Jews received no response. He later published a book The Story of the Secret State in 1944 too much success.
Medoff states that, “all the dialogue is authentic from biographies and primary sources.” The series also makes use of actual footage as well as photographs. Medoff went on to talk about New York City Mayor LaGuardia who was a public advocate against Hitler. Along with LaGuardia, other episodes focus on Helga Skotski’s voyage on the ill-fated St. Louis, American immigration rejection of Anne Frank’s family, the harrowing rescue efforts of various Americans, and the plea of artist and Auschwitz survivor Dina Babbit.
Dina Babbit with paintingIn fact Babbit’s case for the return of her paintings from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was the precipice for the entire project. Adams had heard of Babbit’s unsuccessful forty-year case. In 1973, the museum denied her request based on the position that the educational value outweighed her right to ownership. After two congressional resolutions in 2001, Adams, Medoff and others organized a campaign in 2006 of 450 artists to apply pressure to the museum. More recently, Adams, Medoff, and Kubert collaborated on “The Last Outrage” a story that was published by Marvel Comics in Magneto: Testament #5 (March 2009) which was the prototype for the motion comic.
Adams describes the museum’s denial of Babbit's requests as “anti-Holocaust,” which he defines as using the Holocaust as a political tool to achieve unethical means. “The Holocaust is not political,” Adams states, “You can’t mix up your morality…the right things is to return the work. Let her decide what to do with it.”
While certainly not equivalent in atrocity, this is not Adams first effort advocating for creative rights. Early on in his career, he used his widespread artistic popularity within the comic medium to promote what he calls “Moral Humanism”. In the mid-1970’s he was instrumental in organizing a campaign to restore creative credits to Superman’s Jewish creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. He has also been an advocate for the return of Jack Kirby’s original artwork, and a staunch opponent of the “work for hire” clause that he claims steals creative rights from its originators.
During the Q&A session, Adams related that even-though the comic medium is an industry created by Jews; there are few comics that cover the details of the Holocaust. Adams and writer Denny O’Neil had previously raised awareness of the Holocaust in Batman #237 “Night of the Reaper” (Dec. 1971), in which a Jewish survivor enacts revenge on his Nazi tormentors. However censorship due to sensitivity has been a long problem in the industry. Medoff referred to a Superman storyline, which ran in Man of Steel # 80-82 in 1998, in which the actual word “Jew” was edited out of the original script where Superman travels back in time to confront the Holocaust.
I sat in the half-filled ballroom looking around while I listened to the panel discussion. I noticed areas of unfilled seats and I remembered Adams’s lamentation that there were not enough people in attendance. It’s probably true that there were more people outside in the hall participating in a Magic card-playing tournament. However, I noticed a great amount of diversity attending the lecture. There were people of all ages and backgrounds present. And while it was a bit quirky to see a very seductively dressed Asian Catwoman in attendance, it reminded me of how universal the language of comic sequential art is and its importance as communicative tool.
Please visit www.theyspokeout.com to view six of the motion comic episodes as well as educational supplemental information for classroom teaching.
“Extended Lives” is an installation/ mixed media exhibition of artwork by Soojin Park.
May 2-6, 2011
Steuben South Gallery
Eternity, 2011What draws me into Soojin Park’s artwork is her delicate concern for touch. Her artwork focuses on a relationship between her watercolor paintings of tree forms and the physical objects themselves. Park’s process begins with the collection of fallen twigs and branches, which she glues to a mounted piece of watercolor paper. She then continues the physical form of the tree into her painting. Subversively simple in appearance, her work requires a great attention to technique.
Her mimicking of twigs and leaves are formed by the pooling and evaporation of water. This leaves a hard edge, while retaining an inner wash, similar to how coffee stains dry. The process is time consuming and is required for every single nuanced area of coloring. Every twig segment is its own distinct pooling. There is no room for error. Her immaculately clean surface helps give illusion to the transition from object to painting. The technique is beautiful and simple. However each mark requires a steadfast belief in her artistic vision and skill. One slip can ruin the piece.
Eternity (detail), 2011Her painting technique is a unifying factor linking many of the artworks in the exhibit. I particularly enjoy her color transitions. They are derived from the natural color of her incorporated twigs, and meld seamlessly from natural object to her painting. Pieces like Still Growing ver.2 and Eternity reveal a playful side as Park paints budding flowers sprouting from her painted branches. She uses her paintings to consciously inject life into her otherwise dying tree objects.
Too Deep to See, 2011Too Deep to See offers a different application of her watercolor technique. Here she creates a diorama-esque shadowbox. The box structure is oriented to be viewed from the front. It consists of a series of her watercolor branches on pieces of paper. The center to each piece is cut out. The sizes of the holes range from large to small. Each piece is layered with space between to give the impression of a void. From a frontal view the view-box allows the eye to travel through each layer. It is a great feeling that is not explored in her other work. It is difficult to reconcile with the other pieces. When the object is viewed at any other angle, the mechanics of the illusion become obvious and apparent. I would like as much consideration to the outside form as is skillfully applied to the inner form. Perhaps, Park will use this technique to make cocoon shapes or other natural forms that work as 3d sculpture, but still retain the layered inner drawings in the future.
In Still Growing ver.3 Park begins to push the 2 dimensional surface by treating it as a sculptural piece. The paper is tattered and torn, contorted to form the bed of leaf. Her watercolor technique lays the veins of the leaf trailing back to a branch from a sycamore tree. The branch is noticeably larger than her previous use of twigs and sticks. It adds a sense of weight and the overall size of the work being substantially larger than real life scale gives the appearance of the viewpoint from an insect.
Fly to the Original Position, 2011A visitor’s physical point of view is more important in Fly to the Original Position. It is one of only two free form sculpture pieces in the exhibit. In Fly to the Original Position a trail of twigs bundle and then magically flutter upward in a stream mimicking the movement of birds as they flock throughout the exhibition space. It is a great piece to stand under, as one feels the energy of movement flow overhead. It is the most successful of her free form pieces because of the illusion of movement. It allows the viewer to ignore its mechanics, which are still-hanging twigs suspended by fishing wire. There is a spiritual element infused with the piece that causes the viewer to consider the majestic force that would breathe life into such an occurrence.
The spiritual undertones of Park’s work deal with the human desire to extend life. Death is a natural occurrence that all living things experience. She is careful to choose only twigs and branches, which have already fallen from trees and are dying. She never breaks twigs off living trees. For many the belief in life after death is a human desire shared by many cultures. In “Extended Lives,” Soojin Park transfers these desires to fallen twigs and branches to give them a purpose and a chance at a second
life as her artwork.