Political cartoon and graphic magazine brings exhibit to Grand Forks galleries

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University of North Dakota


Co-founders of one of the most popular alternative political comics and graphics magazines ever printed, World War 3 Illustrated, are bringing three decades of artistic social commentary to local galleries in Grand Forks from their home base in New York City throughout the month of October.

The exhibit, "Graphic Radicals: 30 Years of World War 3 Illustrated," features highlights from the independent political cartooning magazine, which was launched by artistic activists and lifelong friends Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman in 1979-1980 as an anti-establishment response to social problems of the day. The exhibit includes original artwork about global and hyper-local events that artists have scrutinized, documented and participated in 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.

The exhibit runs Sept. 30-Oct. 31 at two galleries in Grand Forks: the Colonel Eugene E. Myers Gallery at the Hughes Fine Arts Center on the UND campus and the Third Street Gallery on Kittson. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Also, World War 3 Illustrated artists will be coming to Grand Forks as part of the month-long exhibit. A panel discussion, featuring Kuper, Tobocman and fellow World War 3 Illustrated veteran Sabrina Jones, will be held at 3p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25, in the River Valley Room of the UND Memorial Union. The panel is part of the "2011 Arts& Culture Conference" that also will be in held in Grand Forks. The theme for this year's conference is "Politics and the Graphic Image."

Special closing receptions for the artists also are set for 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Col. Eugene E. Myers Gallery, then at 7 p.m., at the Third Street Gallery in downtown Grand Forks. Kuper, Tobocman and Jones are expected to be in attendance.

Kuper is probably best known for his artistic work that has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and MAD magazine, in which he illustrates Spy vs. Spy every month. He's also a writer who was featured at the 2008 UND Writers Conference.

The exhibit features paintings, comics, murals, film, animation and drawings from 40 artists that contributed to World War 3 Illustrated. Among the artists represented in the exhibition are Jones, Art Speigelman, Sue Coe, Eric Drooker, Mac McGill, Keven Pyle, Rebecca Migdal, James Romberg and Marguerite Van Cook. There are more than 150 works of art included in the exhibition; the work is presented in a thematic, chronological manner.

Kuper and Tobocman established World War 3 Illustrated following the election of President Ronald Regan and a perceived tilt toward conservatism in America. 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. Themes addressed in World War 3 Illustrated include varied subjects such as racism, prison, AIDS, religion, sex and war.

In an early publication, World War 3 Illustrated captured the dangerous, apocalyptic atmosphere of New York City during the Tomkins Square riots of 1988. In the most recent issue featured in the exhibit, contributing artists captured the national mood of economic and ecological distress.

Holland Carter, writing in a New York Times review of the exhibition, observed that "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.

The exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which received funding from the state legislature and the National Endowment of the Arts, as well as, the UND Departments of Art and Design, UND Communication Program, the UND College of Arts & Sciences, the UND Office of the Provost and The Myers Foundations.