One of the major themes of the Delaware Art Exhibition is that technological innovations of the past century have enhanced the expressive power of illustration. Even museum visitors who loved traditional oil paintings by Howard Pyle or N.C. Wyeth stood transfixed in front of video screens where Finding Nemo, Wall-E and Ice Age movies played. The sound, the movement, the changing facial expressions and the glowing colors from an LED screen had a gravitational pull that made it difficult for traditional pictures to compete.
That's why it was important for the exhibit to demonstrate that even the simplest, most ancient media could still produce pictures as powerful as any in the show. For this purpose, I chose the work of John Cuneo. The newest annual from the Society of Illustrators, which documents Cuneo's Hamilton King award for the best picture of the year, says this about his work:
Using the most delicate materials-- a tremulous little line like a spider's filament and a few dabs of water color-- John Cuneo creates drawings with the atomic weight of weapons-grade plutonium.Take for example this devastating drawing of a poacher:
The poacher placing the horn on his head is an inspired way to symbolize the regal and priapic delusions of the man and his loathsome species; the grin as he proudly shows off his new hat to the audience, his sagging face, the stoicism of the mutilated beast...
|Note the marvelous jagged teeth on the saw|
...none of these lines come from a template or anatomy book. They are all invented fresh, with a chilling effect. This is a beautifully orchestrated drawing.
Another example of Cuneo's dark and trenchant humor:
I like the way Cuneo's intelligence is integrated into his line, and does not coexist side by side in separate categories of picture and text (as too often happens today). These are not diagrams or symbols, they are not linear messages that can be read like a sentence, they are organic creations which thwart our ability to dissect them with words. But I think they are terrific, thoughtful drawings.