Archive for January, 2016

Lost in Translation

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

The cartoonist group Charlie Hebdo provoked outrage last week by publishing a cartoon that shockingly resurrects a dead child refugee as an adult sexual predator.  Journalists responded: “Disgustingly racist.” “Unforgivable.”

How do we interpret this cartoon? Is it aggressive satire that mocks European xenophobia? Or do we take it at face value, as racist propaganda? Which interpretation is easier to believe? Do we expect the worst of our cartoonists, just as natives expect the worst of immigrants?

Steve Brodner, an illustration faculty member, agreed to share some insights. Along with practicing some of today’s most pointed political cartooning, Steve has spoken publicly about Charlie Hebdo with fellow artist Liniers  and SVA colleagues. On January 22, he will participate in Freedom of Expression in a Changing World: What Cannot Be Said. If there’s an illustrator whose own work and teaching experience who can illuminate the Charlie Hebdo debate, it has to be Steve.

Charlie Hebdo's Aylan Kurdi cartoon

Charlie Hebdo’s Aylan Kurdi cartoon

Steve writes:

“Here is the latest cartoon from the Charlie Hebdo controversy factory to whip across the news this week. It implies that the famous baby, Aylan Kurdi, who horrendously perished in one of the recent waves of Syrian migration (which are ongoing, so please contribute to UNHCR or others), would grow up to become a drooling rapist marauding across the streets of Cologne.

What are we to make of it? Are we to assume that the cartoonist and editor, both in league with the racist right of Europe and the United States, believe that the behavior of these particular people on New Year’s Eve should be seen as an accurate characterization of Muslim men in general? Or is this a broader commentary, via irony, on the way we so quickly revert to black and white thinking when we see such a story?

I knew one of the Hebdo artists murdered in January 2015. There is an undoubted level of sophistication that they share. And I believe that this sophistication is cleverly woven via irony into the Charlie ‘toons.

It should be said that it is the hard fought-for goal of all illustration to be, on some level, understood by the viewer. What we do is fine-tuned for communication. That is my training and what I teach at SVA. But how to judge a project where ambiguity is the goal?

Could it then just be about raising hell? And it does raise hell. So shall we talk about that instead? That this all is rewarded in the coin of the realm: attention. Great attention will be paid to this cartoon. And not incidentally to…Charlie Hebdo.

Here in the US we have, for the first time, a European-style hate campaign looking very much like it will take over a major political party. It would seem now that poor, muddled satire needs to be put away.  Mass communication is about driving that out. If the statement as written here, that Aylan would have grown up to be a sexual abuser, is to be taken at face value, it would be just another racist tract. And a pretty tasteless one.

I believe the statement intended is mocking of racists in France and in the West. But whichever it is, it is impossible to discern, and is therefore a failure. Which we are all entitled to have from time to time.  But don’t pretend that syntax and usage are not important in visual communication. They are everything.”

Friday Hot Links

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Happy Friday! We want to share some art, design, and culture goodies shared by the SVACE faculty and community.


Wild Styles (Geek): The Do’s and Don’ts of animation, and why’s. (via SVA MFA Visual Narrative)

Adult Books (New York Mag): Do coloring Books fulfill adults’ creative potential? (via Steve Brodner)

Seeing Bing (Ad Age): Be sure to Google Bing’s new logo. (via Robert Stribley)





Faculty Updates

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

What have SVACE faculty members been up to? We have exciting updates from Elizabeth Sayles, Matt RotaSara VaronCarl Potts, and Steve Brodner.

Illustration by Elizabeth Sayles

Illustration by Elizabeth Sayles

Elizabeth Sayles of SVACE illustrated Malala: A Hero for All, a new book about Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize!

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 6.47.59 PM


Matt Rota is included in Ballpoint: A Group Show at Sugarlift in Brooklyn. Ballpoint also features Mu Pan, an SVA alum. The show will also celebrate the launch of Matt’s new book, The Art of Ballpoint (Murdoch Books). Read our interview with Matt about his book.

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon was reviewed by the blogRead Now Sleep Later. One highlight: “Her stories have the cumulative warming effect of a fuzzy-soft sweater, warm socks, and the best cup of hot cocoa.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 6.59.09 PM

Another review of faculty work is from Starburst Magazine for Last of the Dragons by Carl Potts. Endowing the work with 8/10 stars, the review reads, “This is a well-written comic book series that will leave you waiting for a sequel.”

brodner trump

Steve Brodner’s recent Village Voice cover

Steve Brodner will participate in Freedom of Expression in a Changing World: What Cannot Be Saidan upcoming conference at UC Irvine and USC. Steve recently spoke at POW! Mighty Art That Takes No Prisoners and Strips, Politics, Cartooning with Liniers.

See more updates on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages!



Faculty Updates

Monday, January 11th, 2016

We have exciting updates from Ofri Cnaani and Keren Moscovitch! Both Ofri and Keren will perform on January 16th in Help Desk: Equity Exchange Marathon. The performance is part of File Under: ?, Ofri’s solo exhibition at Equity Gallery.

Ofri Cnaani at Equity Gallery

For the exhibition, Cnaani invited artists to submit “pressing questions,” which each individual artist wants answered to help them in their lives as artists, ranging from professional to personal to theoretical.

These questions are displayed at Equity Gallery and shared on its online platforms. For the performance, Cnaani has asked experts from a variety of fields to attempt to answer these questions and the roster was determined by the frequency of the topics. Keren Moscovitch is one of these experts.

Ofri Cnaani at Equity Gallery

Ofri is also featured in Cut-Up: Contemporary Collage and Cut-Up Histories through a Feminist Lens, curated by Katie Vida, at Franklin Street Works in Stamford, CT from January 16 – April 3, 2016.

See more updates on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages!

Student Artwork Update: Robert Morein

Monday, January 11th, 2016

We are pleased to present Spaceman Remembers, a series of paintings by SVACE student Robert Morein! Robert created his artwork in conjunction with the course, Contemporary Painting Lab: Artists and Techniques of the 21st Century with Emily Weiner, along with the courses, Drawing II and Painting with Paul Fortunato, Portrait Drawing II with Alphonse Van Woerkom, and Trends in Photography and Contemporary Art: What’s Happening Now with Brian Appel.

5_Overlooking the River_Robert Morein

“Overlooking the River” by Robert Morein

Robert writes, “Spaceman’s head reaches for Cosmic Consciousness of a spiral galaxy. But sadly, he is being sucked into a black hole.  As he approaches the event horizon, the gravitational field varies strongly with distance, the so-called “tidal forces” causing the elongation and dissolution of his lower body.  At the event horizon, the very atoms are torn asunder and with it, his memories of Earth. Perhaps, as Spaceman contemplates his predicament, his memories of Earth romanticize the current reality. The painting is an invitation for you to replace the generalized likeness of Spaceman with your own. Do you identify with Spaceman?”

See Robert’s work in our exhibition space at 380 2nd Avenue, 8th floor, until January 29th!

6_Tidal Pools_Robert Morein

“Tidal Pools” by Robert Morein