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19. Dezember 2003
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona
Cathalena E. Burch
Attracting youth
University of Arizona Museum of Art
Alisa Shorr glanced at the teenager with a look of disbelief. "This is dope," the 17-year-old boy was exclaiming as he looked at the images in the University of Arizona Museum of Art's latest exhibits, "Comic Release: Negotiating Identity for a New Generation" and "Wit's End: The Art of Laughs, Giggles, Cackles and Guffaws." "I had never heard that before" uttered in the museum, said Shorr, the museum's spokeswoman. The double display, on exhibit until Jan. 25, is attracting plenty of interest among teens and young adults who normally avoid the museum. Young people are drawn to the exhibits because both employ comic images - familiar and new cartoon characters - to address serious topics: war, violence, ethnicity, gender, loss of innocence. Gottfried Helnwein's "American Prayer" incorporates a floating Donald Duck in a young boy's evening prayers, while Phillip Knoll asks the question "What if Superman flew naked?" in his sparse "Real and Imagined."
picture: "American prayer" by Gottfried Helnwein
Courtesy Modernism, San Francisco
"American Prayer" by Gottfried Helnwein incorporates a floating Disney character in the room of a boy saying his nighttime prayers.
"The kind of issues that are being raised are serious issues in our culture that need to be addressed," said "Comic Release" curator Vicky Clark, "and they are being addressed through art."
"Comic Release" includes 80 artists, 40 graphic novelists and 250 zine makers - crafters of those niche publications often targeting audiences in their teens and early 20s.
The three eyes on New York artist Sean Landers' "Truman Capote" look off in all directions on the canvas, on which Landers has written his views of the world and other interesting observations.
Gottfried Helnwein's "American Prayer" incorporates a floating Donald Duck in a young boy's evening prayers, while Phillip Knoll asks the question "What if Superman flew naked?" in his sparse "Real and Imagined."
One of the exhibit's most poignant pieces is Deborah Grant's "It's a World of Laughs and a World of Tears," a large piece shaped like Mickey Mouse's head. The black-and-white comic-book characters debate everything from homosexuality to infidelity.
"Comic Release" was born at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where Clark is an adjunct art professor. The exhibit opened last January and went on the road last April. It will travel around the country through next year.
The other exhibition, "Wit's End," includes a selection of the UA museum's historical - and hysterical - prints that explore a wide range of satiric and comic themes by artists including Honoré Daumier, Isaac Cruikshank, Paul Gavarni, George Arntz, John Sloan and Red Grooms. Many of the editorial cartoons date to the 1800s and early 1900s, including George Grosz's dark and disturbing 1923 strip "Domestic Scene," in which a man is poised to strike his terrified wife.
Curator Clark said "Comic Release" has drawn a large youth audience, even if it was not the intention.
"We thought that a lot of young people would be interested because it is their world. But we hope that a lot of older people would be interested as well," she said.
Shorr said she has seen more young people in the museum for the exhibit than she's seen in some time.
"It's cool," she said - leaving the use of the word "dope" to other generations.
IF YOU GO
• What: Two exhibits that employ cartoon art to explore not-so-funny issues.
"Comic Release: Negotiating Identity for a New Generation," featuring comic book artists, painters and zine makers serving up cutting-edge cartoon art. National traveling exhibit on display through Jan. 25.
"Wit's End: The Art of Laughs, Giggles, Cackles and Guffaws" includes a selection of historical and hysterical prints with laugh lines from the museum's collection. On display through Jan. 25.
• Where: University of Arizona Museum of Art, on the UA campus off East Speedway between North Park and Mountain avenues
•Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed Mondays
•Cost: Free




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