Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Caricature and Racism? Or Cartooning in the"good od days"

February is Black History Month, and so for this entire month I find myself investigating and featuring on this blog African American Artists of color who have influenced my cartooning caricature style that I use gleefully on the un suspectly subway commuters of NYC.
A major source of influence in my style has always been cartooning particularly of the zanier sort associated with Warner Brothers Looney Tunes, which seemed more than any other studio to embrace caricature as a whole and incorporate it into their artwork.

Caricature, by it's very nature seeks to amplify a subjects facial features for startling comic effect. The art form can also be used to make a statement about the artists' attitude toward the subject. Caricature artist, Dion Socia, of the ISCA lectured on this very subject numerous times at various ISCA Conventions that I attended, and pointed out one should instantly know the artist's point of view by looking at their caricature. With this view in mind, I find myself asking, "what were the cartoonists/caricature artists "back in the good old days" circa, 1940- 50 saying about Negroes (we werent "African Americans " then) as a whole?Ive heard the argument that the art reflected the attitude of the country at the time, that it wasnt meant to hurt or downgrade a group of people, etc. etc. But you tend to wonder what went on in the mind of the artists as they created these images shown in these films Ive have here.

To be objective for a moment, the cartooning is brilliant and so is the animation. Imaginative, well drawn, and very entertaining, even with the racial charged undertones. You can even say that the artists are depicting jazz musicians and the cultural attitude, as they saw it, of black people at the time.
I know Im raising more questions than making a point here, but as I said earlier, Im wondering about all this....
After all, I AM a caricature artist, I DO lampoon people and JUMP UP distinctive facial characteristics as a matter of policy. Is it RACIST to draw Jay Z, WITH GIANTIC LIPS? is it RACIST to draw so called "nappy hair" on a black person if they have it? Is it RACIST to draw a black person as dark as the midnight sky if they LOOK that way? I personally know and have seen in my community numerous people who REALLY resemble these "racist cartoon/caricatures" depicted in these and several other youtube clips.

IS it RACIST to depict black people like this or not? If not, WHY? If so, WHY?
when does "innocent caricature" cross the line into "divisive racism?"
Let's talk more about this, or at least think about it this month.

Here's a link that talks about The use of the "N" word and how it is used in caricature in art and comedy