The post-war era in America gave rise to a remarkable number of amazing cartoonists retuning from overseas. These members of our “Greatest Generation” had their careers interrupted by World War II and again when the comic book hysteria of the 1950s all but erased this innocent pastime from the cultural landscape. When comic book work could no longer provide their livelihood, many turned to racy down-market digests, and in the process created a legacy of sensual and seductive pin-up art that remains as appealing today as it did when this distinctly American aesthetic emerged. A new exhibition at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery opening June 28 highlights the work of five of the most notorious pin-up cartoonists of this period.
“Now Serving Cheesecake: The Classic Art of Cartoon Pin-up,” organized by Los Angeles author and archivist Alex Chun, highlights stunning original artwork and artifacts by Jack Cole, Dan DeCarlo, Don Flowers, Bill Ward and Bill Wenzel. Chun is the author of no fewer than six books featuring the work of these artists and examining their contributions to American popular culture. Many of these artists enjoyed success in the field of mainstream comics, creating memorable characters like Plastic Man, Josie & the Pussycats, and Torchy Todd, working in newspaper syndication and comics publishers including Archie and Timely Comics – the predecessor to Marvel Comics. The publication of Dr. Fredric Wertham’s sensational tirade Seduction of the Innocent, and subsequent Senate hearings on Wertham’s suggestion that comic books led to juvenile delinquency and social deviancy, forced these artists onto the pages of men’s magazines. These popular digests, published primarily by Humorama, featured photos of 50s icons like Bettie Page and gag cartoons with scantily clad women. While mild by today’s standards, these anachronistic depictions of blonde bombshells, silly secretaries and gold-digging seductresses are emblematic of their era.
The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday, June 28 and continues through July 25 at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale St. The opening reception from 6:00 to 9:00 PM features a live pin-up cartooning demonstration and a performance of 50s torch songs by the Fraus. Author Alex Chun will attend to sign his many pin-up books, published by Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books. The opening coincides with the colorful “Artopia” Georgetown arts festival featuring art, music, dance, performance art, film, and the ever-popular Hazard Factory power tool races throughout the neighborhood. Admission is free.
A selection of imagery in a variety of formats is available for publication. For additional information contact Larry Reid.
NOW SERVING CHEESECAKE: The Classic Art of Cartoon Pin-up!
Original Art and Artifacts by Jack Cole, Dan DeCarlo, Don Flowers, Bill Ward, and Bill Wenzel. Curated by Alex Chun.
Opening Reception Saturday, June 28, 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Live Pin-up Cartooning Demonstrations, music by the Fraus and more.
Exhibition continues through July 25, 2008
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 S. Vale Street. (at Airport Way S.)
Seattle, WA 98108
Open daily 11:30 – 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM