Thursday, April 26, 2018
Features and More

At Tampa Museum of Art, political cartoons that shaped a nation

TAMPA

there's a reason that old saw, "A picture's worth a thousand words," is still invoked as I do now. It is the essence of "Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons," a new exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art.

Visual editorials are the most succinct form of commentary, and the best need few or no words to convey a message. They have been around for a long time. In 1754 Benjamin Franklin created his famous Join or Die to promote colonial unity using the image of a snake cut into sections representing different regions. In the 1790s, Francisco Goya's Caprichos lambasted Spanish society.

But the political cartoon as we know it began with the proliferation of daily newspapers and weekly journals in the 19th century, when advances in printing technology meant more timely publication, cheaper cost and much wider access.

The show begins with 1871 and 1875 cartoons criticizing the shady maneuvers of New York politician William "Boss" Tweed. They are the work of Thomas Nast, often called the father of the American political cartoon. He relentlessly documented Tweed's illegal dealings in Harper's Weekly with caricatures such as the two seen in this show. Nast's cartoons were in large part responsible for public outrage that led to Tweed's downfall.

Nast influenced generations of political illustrators in creating or popularizing images that became immediately recognizable and enduring symbols, including the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey. Still, the virtue of political cartoons is their timeliness and focus on current events. Content becomes dated quickly, and issues that generate high emotion in one era can be forgotten by another. Good, brief wall texts give the cartoons needed context.

The most recent ones are self-explanatory. Signe Wilkinson's I Am Occupied juxtaposes the Occupy Movement with a statement on overpopulation with the Earth's continents outlined by and filled with human heads. She's one of 15 Pulitzer Prize winners for editorial cartoon represented, deservedly since her work is especially eloquent and sophisticated.

Stylistically, the 59 cartoons here show an evolution from those highly detailed and wordy (for editorial cartoons) early on to simpler, streamlined illustrations and captions. One of the best examples is Bill Mauldin's wordless 1963 cartoon after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in which Abraham Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial is bent over in grief.

All the cartoons come from the collection of Charlie Mahan, dean and professor emeritus in the University of South Florida College of Public Health. Mahan donated the collection to the university in 2006. He himself is a cartoonist, and one of his works, a spoof on a long-ago controversy during the Eisenhower years, is included. Other esteemed Florida editorial cartoonists are part of the exhibition, such as the late Don Addis, who worked for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times). The inclusion of Garry Trudeau, who creates the Doonesbury comic strip, and Walt Kelly, who penned Pogo until his death, remind us that editorial pages aren't the only platform for commentary. And Ann Telnaes' animated cartoons for the Washington Post's website, seen in continuous loop on a monitor, indicate that the political cartoon has a future in the digital age.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.

   
Comments
Enjoy a beach day in Mahahual, minutes from the cruise port in Costa Maya, Mexico

Enjoy a beach day in Mahahual, minutes from the cruise port in Costa Maya, Mexico

A trip to the Caribbean conjures up visions of swaying palms and a watercolor palette of blues, greens and shades in between. Just 10 minutes or so from the port of Costa Maya, Mexico, a fixture on most western Caribbean cruise itineraries, lies an i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bar review: Danny’s Sports Pub in Palm Harbor

Bar review: Danny’s Sports Pub in Palm Harbor

Every town has that institution, the reliable neighborhood dive: enduring for decades, with the nicotine stains and scuffed furniture to prove it. The appeal of these places is that they never really change; they’re largely the same as they were in t...
Published: 04/26/18
Local craft beer of the week: Skaterboarders, drink up this After Sesh Lager from Cigar City

Local craft beer of the week: Skaterboarders, drink up this After Sesh Lager from Cigar City

Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing has been in the collaboration game longer than most, working with breweries across the world, as well as musicians, artists and local businesses to produce a growing list of partnered brews, most of which are one-time relea...
Published: 04/26/18
Why does Yelp think Asian restaurants serve cat and dog meat?

Why does Yelp think Asian restaurants serve cat and dog meat?

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Jobsite Theater wants to challenge audiences with an adaptation of ‘1984’

Jobsite Theater wants to challenge audiences with an adaptation of ‘1984’

TAMPANow is as good a time as any, since there is no great time to take a deep dark look into the apocalypse of humanity.But history rewards those brave enough to try, from Nostradamus to George Orwell, who are looking more and more like the same bre...
Published: 04/25/18
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

What does Thanos want?That question lies at the heart of Avengers: Infinity War, the at-once dark, maddeningly open-ended yet fiercely entertaining new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which pits the titular global do-gooders — still s...
Published: 04/25/18
Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

TAMPA — A lonely and changeable sky illuminates the top of the stage through most of Waitress, running this week at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The neon lettering of Joe’s Diner reflects days and nights that don...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Published: 04/25/18
Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

MINISTRY OF JOBSITE: 1984When selecting an adaptation for George Orwell’s 1984 (there have been a few of them), Jobsite Theater had to strike the most controversial one off the list. That version by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan ran for 125 perfor...
Published: 04/25/18