Having first made his mark designing sets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Gary Panter has worn many hats, from cartoonist and illustrator to interior designer (a kids playroom inside the Paramount Hotel) and animator (Pink Donkey and the Fly for the Cartoon Network). At 700 pages, a new book about his work from PictureBox suggests just how busy Panter has been. Yet somehow the artist found time to curate an exhibition for the School of Visual Arts,where he is on the faculty.
The variety that is second-nature to Panter is also much on display in the exhibition at SVA, which features comic strips, paintings, drawings and book projects by 21 young artists graduating with an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay. Subjects range from the fantastic—like a wealthy collector whose estate is overtaken by exotic plants and animals—to the historic, like Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Current social issues from race to climate change are captured on canvas, linen, wood and paper.