Spy guy: Dumbo exhibit shows range of Mad magazine cartoonist

Spy guy: Dumbo exhibit shows range of Mad magazine cartoonist
Peter KIper

He is not just a Mad man.

The cartoonist behind the iconic Mad magazine comic strip “Spy vs. Spy” will unveil the full range of his illustrations, paintings, and graphic novels at the Scott Eder Gallery in Dumbo on June 16. Illustrator Peter Kuper says that the roughly 60 pieces of artwork in the “Outside the Box” exhibit represent the “cream of the crop” of his work.

“It’s sort of a walk through my brain and its many different areas,” Kuper said. “This is probably the biggest and broadest exhibition I’ve had since around 2001 — it’s definitely the biggest show I’ve had for sale.”

The retrospective will feature 26 years of Kuper’s work, including his vibrant cover illustrations for national magazine such as Newsweek and Time, the “Spy vs. Spy” comics he has drawn since 1997, and work from his dozens of graphic novels. The founder of the comics anthology “World War 3 Illustrated” will also include some “valued treasures” that have been little-seen, including three personal sketchbooks he filled with while traveling in 2010–2012, and some autobiographical work he said he should be “embarrassed to show.”

Many of those personal stories take place in New York. As a resident since the late 1970s, Kuper has illustrated his fair share of stories you could only find in New York, including a victorious ascent to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge in the early 1980s. The cartoonist said that the city has inspired his work.

“New York has been my number one muse — that rolls back to when I was a kid and visiting here,” Kuper said. “My uncle was in a production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and my parents brought me here to see them and it rocked my world. I grew up in Cleveland, but I was aimed at New York thereafter.”

But Kuper has also traveled the world. He spoke with this paper the day after returning from Mexico, where he taught an illustration workshop and launched the Spanish language edition his comic book “Ruins,” which follows a couple who take a two-year sabbatical in the southern part of that country, much like Kuper and his wife did. Illustrations from that graphic novel will be on display in Dumbo, alongside some Cubist-style wooden masks he had made while in Indonesia, and other art inspired by his treks around the globe.

“Outside the Box: A Career Retrospective” at Scott Eder Gallery [18 Bridge Street #2i, between Plymouth and John streets in Dumbo. (718) 797–1100 www.scottedergallery.com. Opening reception June 16 at 6 pm. Show open through until Aug. 19, Tue–Fri, 1–6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlync[email protected]local.com.
Inspiration: Peter Kuper called New York his “number one muse,” although his latest work focuses on a two-month sabbatical he took in Mexico.
Holly Kuper