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UND Arts & Culture Conference focuses on politics and graphic images

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Art by Sabrina Jones2 / 4
Art by Seth Tobocman3 / 4
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With Occupy Wall Street protests popping up around the country, "Graphic Radicals," an exhibit of 30 years of left-wing political cartoons on display at two galleries in Grand Forks, could not be more timely.

"Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of World War 3 Illustrated," features political cartoons from the cartooning magazine World War 3 Illustrated launched by artistic activists and lifelong friends Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman in 1979-1980.

An anti-establishment response to the social problems of the day, the artists of World War 3 Illustrated took on global and local events in which they had scrutinized, documented and participated -- events such as the Iran-Contra affair, Tomkins Square Riot, Gulf War, genocide in the Balkins, 9/11, the War on Terrorism and Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

"Graphic Radicals" will be on display through Oct. 31 at Myers Gallery in the UND Hughes Fine Arts Center and at Third Street Gallery on Kittson in downtown Grand Forks.

"It's 30 years of a magazine that has pointed in a very specific direction -- liberal," said UND assistant professor of art Joel Jonientz, who with his colleague, Professor Kim Fink, helped bring the exhibit to Grand Forks. "It's dealt in very graphic terms with historic moments."

In the process, World War 3 Illustrated became one of the most popular alternative political comics and graphics magazines ever printed.

The hundreds of works that make up the part of the exhibit at UND Myers Gallery are divided into categories: "Police State America," "Rapture: In God We Trust," "After the Flood: The Battle of New Orleans," "Unnatural Disasters: Poisoning our Planet," and "Herstories: Feminist comics."

The views they express, however, aren't strictly late 20th-century. One of Kuper's cartoons illustrates Jonathan Swift's satirical 1729 essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which Swift suggested the poor people of Ireland eat their children to keep them from becoming a burden to the country.

An illustration about military recruiting is titled, "What great benefits?" It says: "Many enlist to get money for college -- but this is not you father's GI Bill," and goes on to point out that Vietnam veterans make 12 to 15 percent less than their non-military peers and that veterans are more likely to be homeless or incarcerated.

Another drawing shows Ronald McDonald eating a hamburger while sitting on a toilet with the caption "I love it." Other illustrations show skulls gasping for air with the caption: "Just breathe harder," and bombs dropping on distressed Middle Eastern civilians.

"Graphic Radicals" previously was shown in New York City, home base for the founders of World War 3 Illustrated and the artists who contribute to it. It came to Grand Forks after Kuper, one of the magazine's co-founders, was a featured author at the 2008 UND Writers Conference.

At the end of the conference, Kuper agreed to produce a three-color lithograph with Sundog Press, a student-generated print program created by Fink that builds upon and advances the in-class learning of printmaking students. Kuper's presence in the program, Fink said, provided his students with an invaluable experience.

By the end of his participation, Kuper had created multiple editions, including the lithograph "Lucha Libre," the silk screen print "This is Not a Pipe," a five print suite of silk screens from the Franz Kafka short story "Give It Up!," as well as an accordion book based on Kafka's "The Helmsman."

Since then, Sundog Multiples and Kuper have collaborated on other projects. This growing relationship led Kuper to offer UND the opportunity to exhibit "Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of WW3 Illustrated."

To bring the exhibit to UND, Fink, Jonientz and Brian Fricke, all from the Department of Art & Design, and Brett Ommen from the Communication Program began meeting to raise funds in support of the project.

"Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of WW3 Illustrated" required a second venue to accommodate the more than 200 works contained in the exhibition. That's how Amy Jo Lyste and Rebecca Sefcovic Uglem, co-directors of the Third Street Gallery on Kittson in downtown Grand Forks (and UND alumni), came to agree to host part of the exhibit.

The exhibition in Grand Forks today has support from the office of the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the office of the provost, the Myers Foundations, the Department of Art and Design, the Communication Program, the North Dakota Council on the Arts and the Third Street Gallery on Kittson.

Some prints are for sale to the public, with all proceeds supporting the UND Department of Art and Design to buy materials and bring visiting artists to UND. If you're interested in purchasing prints, contact Fink at (701) 777-2905.

Arts & Culture Conference

"Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of World War 3 Illustrated" has become the focus of the the UND Arts & Culture Conference Tuesday and Wednesday, in which Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Clay Bennett of the Chatanooga Tennessean will speak. Kuper, Tobcoman and fellow artist Sabrina Jones also will lecture and take part in a panel.

The theme for the conference, a first at UND, is "Politics and the Graphic Image."

Tuesday's events will feature a lecture by Tobocman at 9:30 a.m. and UND Hughes Fine Arts Center, a 12:30 p.m. lecture by Jones in Gillette Hall, and a 3 p.m. panel with Kuper, Tobocman and Jones and UND Memorial Union.

Wednesday, Kuper will lecture at 11:30 a.m. at UND Hughes Fine Arts Cneter and Clay Bennett will speak at 3 p.m. at the Josephine Campbell Recital Hall at UND Hughes Fine Arts Center. Special closing receptions for the artists will begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Myers Gallery and at 7 p.m. at Third Street Gallery on Kittson. Kuper, Tobocman and Jones are expected to attend both events.

Kuper probably is best known for his artistic work in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and MAD magazine, in which he illustrates Spy vs. Spy every month.

Among the other 41 artist represented in the "Graphic Radicals" exhibit are Art Speigelman, Sue Coe, Eric Drooker, Mac McGill, Keven Pyle, Rebecca Migdal, James Romberg and Marguerite Van Cook.

Kuper and Tobocman established World War 3 Illustrated following the election of President Ronald Regan and a perceived tilt toward conservatism in America, a news release said.

Since that time, the publication -- produced annually -- has included artwork created by a collective of artists who confront social and political issues on a specific theme, such as racism, prison, AIDS, religion, sex and war.

Holland Carter, writing in a New York Times review of the exhibition, observed: "The 9/11 issue, which appeared very soon after the disaster, is still a heart-stopper, with its diary-like narratives in cartoon form and its evocation of the grief and paranoia that gripped the city."

"Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of World War 3 Illustrated" is on loan from the Exit Art cultural center in New York. Exit Art presents experimental, historical and unique exhibitions of aesthetic, social, political and environmental issues. The World War 3 Illustrated exhibit is curated by Kuper, Tobocman and Susan Willmarth.

UND ARTS AND CULTURE CONFERENCE: POLITICS AND THE GRAPHIC IMAGE

Tuesday

- 9:30 a.m., Seth Tobocman, artist lecture, UND Hughes Fine Arts Center Room 227

- 12:30 p.m., Sabrina Jones, artist lecture, UND Gillette Hall Room 303

- 3 p.m., World War 3 panel, artists Peter Kuper, Seth Tobocman and Sabrina Jones, UND Memorial Union River Valley Room

Wednesday

- 11:30 a.m., Peter Kuper, artist lecture, UND Hughes Fine Arts Center Room 227

- 3 p.m., 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Clay Bennett in Conversation, UND Hughes Fine Arts Center Josephine Campbell Recital Hall

- 4 to 6 p.m., Closing reception for "Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of WW3 Illustrated," UND Hughes Fine Arts Center, Myers Gallery

- 7 to 9 p.m., Closing reception for "Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of WW3 Illustrated," Third Street Gallery on Kittson, downtown Grand Forks

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com.