Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Caricatures Then and Now

Once upon a time (or a Russian) caricature artists, trained classically, offered fluid pen and ink lines. Here's an example: Julie (and company) immortalized before the opening of "Once There was a Russian," co-starring Walter Matthau and Albert Salmi.

The old-fashioned "flattering" heterosexual brand of caricature is now so old-fashioned it doesn't even exist.

The idea is to mix things up, bend the gender, and go for outrage. And then, as RuPaul would phrase it, "sashay away," leaving nothing but admiring gasps.

One of Julie's idols in the world of caricature is "RISKO," who resists the old drawing styles and scares up something unique instead. BOO!

You didn't know Julie had pale blue icy eyes? A squidgy nose that resembles Sam "Gunga Din" Jaffe? That her mouth looks like she was eating a pint of strawberries too fast? Well, that's the NEW look, a "new wave" in caricature, and still has the viewer knowing it's Julie Newmar.

Doesn't it? How about a different view? Below: the same artist, but a different take.

A conventional view of women is that they have breasts. That's a bit 20th Century isn't it?

The fact is, if a woman can be a super hero, maybe she can have the same chest development as a male? That would be squared pectorals, and a flat behind. Strange? Maybe even scary? Well, that's the way modern, edgy caricature works. BOO!

Both of the above are capturing Julie in "super hero" mode, because fans love it. Most any Facebook post Julie makes, no matter the topic, will have a chunk of "You were the BEST CATWOMAN" comments. Their cuteness needs to be rewarded with Catwoman cat-ricatures.

However, there's another side to the actress. The garden side. But again, there's no reason to be traditional about it, and shoot for any kind of glamour approach, as the Daily News artist did in promoting "Once There Was a Russian."

With full use of color, and spurning traditional notions of heterosexual beauty, here's Julie in a shapeless dress. This caricature has her in traditional old lady gray hair, raisin-drooped eyes, lips in a doleful camel-like pout, and a moose-jaw chin. Yet people would instantly say "That's Julie Newmar, isn't it?"

Three works about, all from one caricaturist.

Anyone buying the old fluid style of caricature? The Margo Feiden Gallery (which sold the NY Times theater caricatures) is probably gone by now. Who pay thousands for a framed lithograph? There never was a gallery for the Daily News caricatures, like the item you see up top.

Of course with magazines and newspapers disappearing, and cartoon art seeming to only sell to "The New Yorker," the Internet has become a place for anyone and everyone to offer challenging caricatures. The Internet is open to unconventional views of what beautiful women look like, or what the human body should or shouldn't resemble.

Some aren't so sure about all of this. There are some that don't like graffiti. Some question why RuPaul and his fellows appear in "woman face" when there's no longer "yellow face" or "blackface" anymore. Still, art is very much in the eye of the beholder. In fact, now that there's Photoshop, people can download and alter the art to suit their own perspective. Yes, that's another challenge, but the art world is always enthusiastic about being stood on its ear. Just ask Van Gogh.


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