Past Exhibits

  • Arnold Roth | Free Lance: A Fifty Year Retrospective Arnold Roth | Free Lance: A Fifty Year Retrospective February 15, 2002 - May 17, 2002

    The Reading Room Gallery
    February 15, 2002 – May 17, 2002


    Arnold Roth: Free Lance celebrates the fun that Roth has had–and has shared with us–for more than fifty years. He knows what he wants to draw and enjoys doing it. His hand is sure and facile as it moves to create images that capture their viewer’s imagination, pictures that seem already to be completed in his mind and flow onto the page. His sens of color is subtle, adding to the drawing but never overwhelming its lines. His bravura control of watercolor, breathtaking.

    Cartoonists do no create their art with the expectation that it will be exhibited in its original form. The cartoon is working art: it is created to be reproduced. Because of this, cartoons have generally not been treated as “art” either by those who create them or by editors and printers who transform them into their published versions. Marginal notes and stickers, such as registration marks for color separations, are common on origianl cartoons. Sometimes work is cut apart and glued onto different paper in an alternative format. Occasionally corrections made with white-out are visible.

    While Arnold Roth’s original art has all of the editorial makrs and stickers common to most original cartoons, it is uncommonly clean and has very little evidence of correction or redrawing. Unlike many artists of his generation, Roth was successful in having his original work returned to him by the editors and publishers who commissioned it. The final selection for this exhibition was guided by an effort to document the breadth and scope of Arnold Roth’s freelance career as copletely as possible.

    Roth’s work must be read carefully, not simply “looked at.” It requires the active participation of the viewer to catch the subtleties which are, in fact, the heart of his work. Arnold Roth: Free Lance is a celebration of many things: an outstanding talent, a long and remarkable career, success and many honors; but most of all, it is a celebration of the joy of making art and the pleasure it brings to others.

    Co-sponsors of the exhibition are The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library and University of the Arts, where it opened in Philadelphia in the fall of 2001. In 2002 and 2003 it will travel to San Francisco, New York, London, and Basel.

  • Cartoons by Leland S. McClelland: A Retrospective Exhibition Cartoons by Leland S. McClelland: A Retrospective Exhibition February 28, 2000 - May 26, 2000

    The Reading Room Gallery
    February 28, 2000 – May 26, 2000

    Because he is so well-known as a watercolorist, many may be surprised to know that Leland S. McClelland’s first ambition was to be a cartoonist. Drawing Attention: Pen Stroke and Perspectives from Great Lakes Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society published in 1997 includes the following autobiographical statement:

    “From the time I was old enough to read the funnies I wanted to be a cartoonist on theColumbus Citizen, one of the two afternoon newspapers in the city at that time. I didn’t want to be on the Chicago Tribune or any other big papers – just the Citizen. In the summer between my two years of studying art and cartooning at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, I took my samples in to the managing editor of the Citizen. He liked what he saw and hired me for the summer, even though I wasn’t all that good. He held the job open for me for the next year until I finished at the CAFA. I held the job until the paper went the way that so many papers did – it folded in 1959.
    I went to work for the city’s largest ad agency and stayed until 1964 when I quit and opened my own studio. When I left the Citizen, I started to paint watercolors which I did until I retired. I’ve always loved cartooning and cartoonists – they’re my kind of people. I’ll always consider myself a cartoonist first and something else second. ”

    Leland Shank McClelland was born in Columbus on May 23, 1914, the son of C. P. McClelland, the probate court judge, and Grace Shank, a homemaker. He is a graduate of East High School and attended Ohio State University before transferring to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where he graduated in 1936. He married Olga Anne Schlesinger, his high school sweetheart in 1937, and they had a daughter, Mary Susan, and a son, Jeffrey Lee. Mrs. McClelland died in 1987, shortly after the couple celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

    After his cartooning job at the Columbus Citizen ended, McClelland taught himself to watercolor. A prolific artist, he was known for completing three paintings a week for twenty-five years prior to his retirement in 1994. His paintings are in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Capital University’s Schumacher Gallery, the Zanesville Art Institute as well as in the homes of many central Ohioans. Collections of his original cartoons are held at the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library and the Columbus College of Art and Design, where he taught for sixteen years. He was a founder of the Bexley Area Art Guild and the Central Ohio Watercolor Society. He also served for ten years as Director of Fine Arts at the Ohio State Fair. McClelland was very active in the Columbus community serving as president of the Columbus Art League, Arts Council of Columbus, Downtown Lions Club, and Athletic club.

    McClelland’s Cartoon Parade was part of a long tradition among Columbus cartoonists that originated with Billy Ireland’s Passing Show. Each Sunday the newspaper devoted a full-page cartoon to goings-on in the community and, in McClelland’s case, the growth and change in post-war Columbus. As I remember It was a somewhat nostalgic panel cartoon series in which the cartoonist reflected on his childhood and past events. Both features were done with crisp line and sure hand of an expert, and each reveals McClelland’s perspective on life and his affection for central Ohio. Occasionally in Cartoon Parade he ventured into the area of political commentary, but always with gentle humor. For almost twenty-three years, Leland S. McClelland’s cartoons chronicled and commented on his world. We are richer for this legacy.

  • Cartooning Aids Around the World Cartooning Aids Around the World September 20, 1999 - January 21, 2000


    The Reading Room Gallery
    September 20, 1999 – January 21, 2000


    Cartooning AIDS Around the World was conceived and organized by David Horsey (the editorial cartoonist for the Seattle Post- Intelligencer who won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his work) and Maury Forman (a historian of political cartooning) in 1992 with the assistance of Cartoon, Inc. and Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate. The exhibition is a survey of forty-three international AIDS cartoons and, as such, is an interesting reminder of how our understanding of HIV/AIDS has changed in the intervening years. The exhibit toured to twenty-nine venues throughout the United states under the auspices of Exhibit Touring Services before it was donated to The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library by its organizers in 1999.
    We are grateful to the donors and to the cartoonists who provided their artwork for inclusion in the exhibition and the companion book, Cartooning AIDS Around the World, published by Kendall-Hunt. Additional support for mounting the exhibition initially was provided by Bumbershoot, the Seattle Arts Festival.

  • Jewish Cartoonists and the American Experience June 28, 1999 - September 3, 1999


    The Reading Room Gallery
    June 28, 1999 – September 3, 1999

    Cartoons like all mass entertainment are both a reflection of the society in which they are created and a creative force with an impact on that society. Jews, as the exhibition well demonstrates, have been major contributors to American cartoon arts from early in this century to the present day. They brought their own unique outlooks, influenced by immigration and assimilation, to their craft. One can trace the tide of American life through Jewish eyes in their work, and at the same time one can point out the paths by which they have influence the way all American see themselves.


    In Harry Hershfield’s Abie Kabibble one can detect the sentiments of American-born Jew in a world of anti-Semitism on the one hand, and European immigrant Jews on the other. Abie the Agent is full of Yiddishisms and Jewish humor, but there may be something more. Professionally Abie fulfills a Jewish stereotype, but this opens the door to the neutralization of negative connotations within that stereotype. The maternal figures in Al Capp’s hillbilly comic strip Li’l Abner and Mell Lazarus’ Momma do not appear to be Jews, but they, too, offer a positive spin on a Jewish stereotype – the masterful and guilt-wielding mother. Whether consciously or not, these cartoonists painted many of their Jewish concerns in the colors of American cartoon culture.


    Superman, a comic book created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster on the eve of the Second World War, has been described by Jules Feiffer in terms of Jewish self-perception as well. Superman, for Feiffer, represents the desire of Jews to identify themselves as heroes of American values; it is an “assimilationist fantasy… It wasn’t Krypton that Superman really came from; it was the planet Minsk or Lodz or Vilna or Warsaw.” I think, however, that something different is occurring here. Superman is no super-Jew. Siegel and Schuster simply identify fully with American values. Superman represents the vision of American Jews who have assimilated successfully, to the point that their dreams for an American hero strike an identical chord with young people throughout the country.


    The assimilated American Jew nevertheless had certain typical values, which are again represented by Jewish cartoonists, especially following World War II. For example, Al Capp’s Dogpatch is a stereotype American town, yet for Capp it was a device to deliver a strong liberal message of social welfare. (His popularity waned when he took a strong conservative position in the late 1960’s.) Jules Feiffer was able simultaneously to support liberal values and to poke fun at liberals, especially Jews. His targets, if not his humor, share much in common with those of Jewish writers like Philip Roth and Woody Allen. While this exhibition does not include the work of Herbert Block (Herblock), it is worthwhile to point him out as a political cartoonist whose anti-Republican barbs over the period of several decades undoubtedly represented the views of a large proportion of American Jewry.


    Jewish cartoonists helped shape American thought as well as reflecting the values of American Jews. Certainly the contribution of Moses Koenigsberg, a Hearst executive who founded King Features Syndicate in 1913, was pivotal in making cartoons influential in American life. Siegel and Schuster helped put a face on American values with Superman, and continued to articulate those values through the comic book over many decades. Al Capp must be considered one of the most important cartoonists of the century. But Jewish ideas also come to influence American thought through several new styles of cartoon art in the last half-century.


    Mad Magazine, one of the great satirical media for baby-boomers, is loaded with cartoons full of Jewish expressions, humor and references. Like the films of Mel Brooks, Mad cartoons featured Yiddish words in unexpected places, Jewish names on characters, and the satirical bite characteristic of much Jewish humor. Mad was read by millions, and it introduced untold American young people to the “lighter side” of American Jewish culture. In a far more serious vein, the work of Art Spiegelman made numerous contributions to the cartoon arts, particularly in works featuring Jewish-related themes. His most famous creation is the two-volume Holocaust biography Maus, based on the experiences of his parents and family relationships.Maus not only popularized the genre of serious cartoon art, it also offered an example of the ways in which this particular artistic medium can communicate complex ideas and sentiments better than any other. Spiegelman has further expanded the frontiers of cartooning with his covers for The New Yorker, several of which have featured Jewish issues in a very controversial context.


    Altogether, then, a close look at American Jewish cartoonists can teach us much about Jews and American culture. Each artist represented in this exhibit has a different style and aim, but all offer a window into the experience of Jews in America. Let us learn and be entertained.


    Matt Goldish
    Samuel Esther Melton, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies
    The Ohio State University

  • Paul Palnik: The Fine Art of the Cartoon from Generation to Generation October 27, 1996 - January 24, 1997

    The Reading Room Gallery
    October 27, 1996 – January 24, 1997



    The drawing of Paul Palnik have always been, for me, a gentle art, the work of an artist who understand the power of faith and love. The format he has chosen is the common cartoon image presented in a poster. It is a form appropriate to his generation, raised on the animated cartoons of film and television, and to his subject matter, the human comedy.


    Palnik’s work deals with people—the long, the tall, the shirt, the lean, the fat—the war between the sexes, humanity with all of its inspired yearnings and its feral reality. And while his humor, at times, crosses over into the absurd, there is always the Palnik ethic: “Shape up…and geteth thine act together!!” Yet his moral view is not a stultifying demand for unthinking obedience. What is the admonition from the bearded figure on the mount to the assembled multitude in one of his posters? “Thou shalt question authority.”


    There are other times when a Palnik work is painfully profound. In Life Is the Music and Nobody Can Resist Dancing is the “dance of the creative, joyous, liberated and boundlessly happy,” as well as the “dance of people who have given up thinking and surrendered their souls to television…” and the “dance of the depressed, worried and self-pitying with befuddled lives and confused priorities…”


    My all-time favorite Palnik work is Pitzel in which the artist depicts the power of the inked line transformed into a character who comes alive and shares his experiences and possibilities with me, the reader, and thereby leaves me smiling and at peace.


    I look at Palnik’s work and am reminded of the line from Midrash:”Let not a simple parable seem trivial in your eyes, for through it you acquire an insight into the complex law.”


    Sidney Chafetz
    Columbus, Ohio
    September 1995

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