Sunday, July 01, 2007

As increasingly powerful sectors of the received environment, television, cinema & print publications in the early 70s provide much of the inspiration for these drawings, as I’ll continue to point out below. But while TV was becoming a window onto a wider world, for an adolescent living at home the view from the living room window, out the front of the house, onto the street & across it to the neighbors’ houses, was an equally intense sector of the received environment.

Rusty’s House & Family 1

Adolescence is a period of accelerated development of identity, a process which involves, at least in part, the perception, analysis & articulation of differences between self & other. For a teenager, everything tends to be a little faster & crasser & hyper-exaggerated. Hormonal influences & the swift pace of changing power relations between self & parents / physical environment / social environment lead to exaggeration (which is really a means of simplification) as a technique for adept identity-triangulation & boundary-testing. Television and, specifically, MAD Magazine, used similar techniques of exaggeration and so were entirely in synch with teenage perceptual tropes, though probably for different reasons.

Ralph & Benji drew this same subject (Ralph’s neighbor Rusty’s family) over & over; these are just a few of these drawings. The characteristics & proclivities of Rusty’s family are subjected to increasing exaggeration.

Rusty’s House & Family 2

Paterfamilias Rusty is portrayed as a slob & glutton, obsessed only with food & apparently oblivious to all the chaos around him. Signifiers of his obsession include turkey-leg-filled thought-bubbles & hand-carried watermelons; over the course of these drawings, a small dedicated food-deposit drawer on the side of his house becomes a special roll-up door and eventually morphs into a barred & gated underground drive-in tunnel guarded by soldiers (see below).

Rusty’s House & Family 3