Through experimentation with paint, pen and pencil, British cartoonist Ralph Steadman brings nightmarish and aggressive characters to life. He is best known for his collaborative work with Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on their coverage of the Kentucky Derby or in Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” but his catalog doesn’t end there.
Steadman’s prolific body of work extends from book illustration — designing editions of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Treasure Island” — to recent work, like creating the album cover for Travis Scott and Quavo’s collaborative album, “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho.” Steadman’s boundary-pushing endeavors create colorful and apocalyptic landscapes mixed with over-accentuated qualities that create an out-of-this-world, satirical representation of his subjects.
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art has partnered with the nonprofit Ralph Steadman America to bring a retrospective exhibit of his work to campus. The exhibit will cover Steadman’s breadth of work over the past 60 years, featuring some of his more notable pieces, like his work with Hunter S. Thompson or book illustrations, and even early sketches that were done while he was a student. The exhibit will open Oct. 5 and will be available to the public until Jan. 19.
Ralph Steadman America first suggested that the JSMA host the retrospective exhibit two years ago. Museum Curator Jill Hartz was ecstatic about the idea. She found his body of work to be fitting for the university community. Since then, Hartz has been working on curating an exhibition that would reflect the anticipated interests of the community, as well as expose Steadman’s work to a new audience.
“I think the breadth of his work connects with the students and the Eugene community,” Hartz said.
Every detail of Steadman’s work is done with intricacy and intention. There is a lot to digest in his pieces. Being able to see his work in person allows onlookers to step back and take time to process the messages behind his work.
“When people first see his images in person, they really learn to appreciate his work,” Hartz said.
Steadman arms himself with a clever use of satire as a means to interpret the intentions of political moves done by those in power. His work is often a critique of the ruling upper class by satirizing their malicious actions. For example, in his 2015 work, “Donald Trump-Porky Pie,” Steadman depicts an overinflated, grotesque version of Trump with pig ears and the phrases “Donald Trump, Porky Pie!” written on the bottom left corner — a British idiom used to call somebody a liar.
“It’s important to see how others reflect on our times — and his subject matter is timely,” said Hartz.
Ralph Steadman has a prolific, irreplicable body of work that shaped a generation of cartoonists. His work has evoked urgent discussion of political issues and has created imagery that perfectly complements the stories being told. An extent of this work can now be seen by UO students and the Eugene public at the JSMA.
On Friday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m., JSMA members will get a first look at the exhibit, accompanied by food and drinks, as well as discussion with members of Ralph Steadman America and museum curators. University students are automatic members and are encouraged to visit the opening.