Back in the day, were you one of those kids who spent Saturdays deeply engrossed in the comics section of your parents' newspaper? And do you just happen to be one of those college students who picks up The Diamondback to see what line "Not From Concentrate" is crossing or what editorial cartoonists such as Max Greenberg have to say about the current state of the nation?
If so, you might be pleased to learn the Kibel Gallery in the Architecture Building on the campus is holding an exhibit until May 9 for comic-lovers just like you, called "Cities are for People: The Visual Voice of John Wiebenson - 13 Years of Political Cartoons."
John Wiebenson previously drew cartoons for the DC Gazette, a progressive alternative publication. Also an architect, Wiebenson used both his architecture and cartoons as forms of activism. His comic strip was named Archihorse for its narrator and main character, a gangly, friendly looking horse with a wide and toothy smile. Archihorse allowed Wiebenson to confront pressing issues such as preservation, conservation and urban development with humor and wit.
To showcase Wiebenson's art, enlarged comic strips line the back wall of the Kibel Gallery. Each strip is placed under a specific themed banner, with concepts such as "obstacles" or "working together" and the more specific "design review" or "transit." While the enlarged comics have a rough-draft feel to them - complete with yellowed paper and edited copy text - the smaller, framed comics mounted next to the banners seem more polished and finalized.
Because Wiebenson was based in Washington, many of his comics address issues that are recognizable to us today, even though they are no longer timely or pertinent to our political world. For example, one comic confronts the issue of high-rises in Dupont Circle, while another fights against the planned destruction of Washington's historic post office.
In fact, there is even a banner dedicated to campus planning. This giant comic strip condemns the Catholic University of America's campus for its scattered layout and lack of trees and also criticizes our university's campus as being too spread out and decentralized.
The exhibit also includes front pages from the DC Gazette during Wiebenson's time with the publication and exhibits the activist philosophy the newspaper took. Some of the front pages are enlarged and superimposed onto large banners that hang from the ceiling, and their positioning forces a viewer to walk between them to observe them fully. Other front pages are laminated and placed on the front wall with their corresponding articles, allowing viewers to read some of the paper's work.
For example, a cover from April 1971 shows a picture of a long-haired man sitting at his kitchen table and shooting up heroin. The caption reads, "Sure, it's bad for him, but think what it does for the nation's economy." This cover showcases the confrontational, sarcastic and socially conscious approach of the DC Gazette; it seems the entire newspaper, not just the comics section, used humor to make its points.
On a similar note, the covers show the entire newspaper, not just Wiebenson, was concerned with the structure and development of the city. A cover from October 1977 contains the headline "D.C.'s war against pedestrians" and includes a picture of a crosswalk light that, instead of flashing a "don't walk" or "walk," says, "Run Like Hell" - a humorous dig at the lack of pedestrian safety in Washington at the time.
So for those who have exhausted their supply of editorial cartoons from The Diamondback, The Washington Post or The New York Times and can't wait for politically minded strips such as The Boondocks to return, make the walk to the Architecture Building for some time with Archihorse. You only have until Wednesday to do it.
Contact reporter Clara
Morris at email@example.com.