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  • Tuesday, October 24 - Saturday, December 2

The Masters Series: Jules Feiffer 

October 24 - December 2, 2006
Visual Arts Museum
Reception: Tuesday, October 24, 6 - 8pm
Dinner: Tuesday, October 24, 7 - 11pm
Lecture and Book Signing: Thursday,October 26, 6:30pm 

School of Visual Arts (SVA) will honor Jules Feiffer, one of America’s most prolific and influential political cartoonists and social satirists, with “The Masters Series: Jules Feiffer,” SVA’s annual award exhibition. This retrospective will bring together a wide-ranging body of work that spans Feiffer’s 50-year career - including early works on paper, cartoon strips, book illustrations and watercolors of dancers as well as posters from his film and stage productions. The exhibition will coincide with the publication of Feiffer’s latest book, The Long Chalkboard and Other Stories (Pantheon, October 2006). There will be an accompanying catalogue, with an interview by design authority Steven Heller.

The exhibition will emphasize Feiffer’s working process, and include preparatory sketches, proofs and rejected drawings, as well as the finished products. Together they offer us a perceptive, deftly satiric and humorous vision of contemporary life. The presentation will show the evolution of the artist’s drawing style from some never-before-seen childhood drawings to signature examples of his spare comic strips to his graceful and increasingly physical illustrations. “For me, it’s all about the immediacy of the line and capturing the emotion of the moment,” says Feiffer. “And the text and image must work together. Even a gorgeous illustration, if it doesn’t complement the text, is a failure.”

His Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip, Feiffer, appeared in the Village Voice from 1956 to 1997 and was the first comic strip ever published in The New York Times. His cartoons have also appeared in The New Yorker, Playboy, Esquire and The Nation. Feiffer’s offbeat humor pushed the limits of acceptable intellectual discourse throughout the Cold War era, and he never shied away from provocative subjects such as civil rights, white liberals, relations between the sexes, government manipulation of language, poverty, the peace movement and the Vietnam War. Feiffer claims he was able to deal with such controversial subjects because, most editors, at the time, didn’t bother to read cartoons with so much text. “I have gotten away with murder over the years and I’m very happy about it.”

Although he is best known for his syndicated comic strips, Feiffer is also an accomplished playwright, children’s book author and screenwriter.  The 1967 Obie-winning play, Little Murders, is a brutal black comedy that examines one New York City family’s encounters with random and senseless violence. His other plays include the White House Murder Case (1970), Knock Knock (1976), Grown-Ups (1980), Elliot Loves (1989) and A Bad Friend (2003). He also wrote the novel Harry, The Rat with Women (1963) and the graphic novel Tantrum (1979), among others.

He has written a number of notable screenplays, including Popeye (1980); and Carnal Knowledge (1971), a wry and groundbreaking drama about the sex lives of two college roommates as they evolve into middle age, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel. He won an Academy Award in 1961 for his animated short Munro, about a four-year-old child who is drafted into the Army. The exhibition will feature notes and manuscripts from these productions. 

In 2001, Feiffer decided to give up his weekly comic strip and instead concentrate almost entirely on writing and illustrating children’s books. “All of my working life, whether in the cartoons or in the theatre, what readers and audiences saw of me was the satiric, abrasive side,” says Feiffer. “There was no outlet to show the fun side, the affectionate side.”

Writing children’s books has allowed him this freedom. He has written and illustrated 10 books for children, including The Man in the Ceiling (1993); A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears (1995); Meanwhile (1997); Bark, George (1997); I Lost My Bear (1998); and his latest children’s book, A Room with a Zoo (2005), which was inspired by his 11-year-old daughter, Julie. 

Feiffer recently completed the illustrations for The Long Chalkboard and Other Stories (Pantheon, October 2006) a book written by his wife, Jenny Allen, who is an author and stand-up comedian. His eldest daughter Kate Feiffer, a writer and filmmaker, is in the final stages of production on her feature documentary film, Matzo & Mistletoe. She is also the author of two picture books for children, the latest, Henry, The Dog With No Tail, is to be illustrated by her father. His middle daughter Halley Feiffer is a student, actor and playwright, and featured in the films The Squid and the Whale and Stephanie Daley.

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