By KUZMA VOSTRIKOV July, 2020
Orange Art Foundation is hosting an online exhibition opening July 15th, 2020 entitled 'Fun Times,' by cartoonist, writer and reporter Anthony Haden-Guest. The exhibition coincides with the release of an album with the same title.
Pets have a sense of humor because they have leisure time. Jungle animals have no time for jokes; out there, they need to survive.
Humor is a service for the middle class. The rich have no sense of humor because it does them no good, and the poor have no time to make strides in that direction because they have to work.
In 18th and 19th century Great Britain, the industrial revolution created a new market for social diversion and opening up a new world of leisure time opportunity for satire and humor. Caricaturist and illustrator John Leech (1817–1864) drew cartoons about social and political goings-on for Britain’s humor magazine Punch. So too did the great Franco-British cartoonist/writer, George du Maurier. Or here in the US, and perhaps the most stinging, he great Thomas Nast, eorking for outlets like Harper’s Weekly.
Another Brit, Phil May (1864–1903) took the genre to a different level, taking it out of a pictorialism that aped painting and bringing to it a graphic simplicity of line. He was a founding father of modern cartooning and exerted an enormous influence on the 20th-century caricature world. It’s not an accident that Phil May’s drawings appeared not just in magazines, but also in art galleries and museums.
Anthony Haden-Guest builds on these foundations, and many others. The evolving complexity of social behavior and our new world order provide him with fertile soil. As his book’s very title - Fun Times, suggests the world we now inhabit is a distorting mirror, in which everyone can discover something disconcerting something different: a tidbit of anxiety, a hint of mockery, a drop of curiosity, a crumb of disappointment, a teaspoon of superiority.
Let us refer back to George du Maurier here. Anthony Haden-Guest was born in Paris, but lived for a long time in London. There is something in the approach of the two, despite the century separating their activities. Perhaps Anthony made the leap straight from 19th-century London onto the 21st-century train (Mary Poppins’ umbrella is probably hidden somewhere in his studio) and he simply retuned his equipment to today’s reality and got down to work.
Truth be told, it’s been turning out great. His passion and speed notwithstanding, Anthony is still a careful explorer, sometimes transmitting a joke with shocking speed, sometimes slyly, as if allowing you space to unpack it yourself - at your own risk. The English gentleman is comfortable, positive and imperturbable.
I like it. I like it, I like it!! I like everything!!!!!!!!!!!
We learned from Andy Warhol. Tolerance and ecstasy, the acceptance of the marginal and the intellectual in one package, the enjoyment of life in its more idiotic forms (Sir! What have you written?!) – all that is the conflict in Anthony. But that does not evidence any particular consequence because internal conflict is a secret, what we call personal, whereas magic works externally – here and now. Anthony brilliantly achieves a false bottom effect, in which one eye wants to weep and the other wants to laugh.
But human nature is not the only independent object artists can examine. In George du Maurier’s 1879 cartoon, “Edison’s Telephonoscope (Transmits Light as Well as Sound),” he foresaw the existence of the videophone 140 years before its invention. Let this be a warning to you: If you see a series of predictions in Haden-Guest’s book, they’ll soon start to come true! Because Fun Times is truly funny.
I won’t summarize the work from the exhibit and the album here. You wouldn’t play soccer with a professional soccer player, would you? (Well, all right, here’s my favorite. Spoiler alert! "Everything means something. So, nothing means anything??? Right???")
I want to add, in conclusion, that the work Anthony Haden-Guest is making in his cheerful travels over our human terrain reveal a real face. He is art infected, his illness resurfaces again and again, wishing to stand on its own two feet, breathe in a lungful and rip off the masks we are so sick of but so desperately need.
Visit the exhibit from the convenience of your own electronic gadget, from your favorite living room, wrapped in a blanket. Seeing it once is better than a hundred times reading about it.
Anthony Haden-Guests were not harmed during the writing of this article. They are all hard at work on new cartoons. WM