Drawn to New York: A ReviewBy John Seven
October 16th, 2013
Illustrator Peter Kuper has spent three decades slowly becoming a native New Yorker, and this new art book compiles the story of that metamorphosis through illustrations, comics and paintings that Kuper has done over those 30 years for various publications.
Like New York City itself, Kuper’s is not a clear narrative — or, rather, of course it is, it just doesn’t seem so by the presentation, and that’s what makes the collection so vital.
In trying to capture the city he both loves and hides inside, Kuper offers his work in a format that mirrors its most important quality — chaos.
It’s a chaos that is created from a lot of little voices attempting to harmonize, but not always succeeding, so over the course of the book you find several sweeping silent cartoons that take you on a tour of the city’s denizens, as well more autobiographical tales, as well as artwork capturing parks, water towers, crowds, city streets, the back seats of taxis, homeless people and buildings.
Kuper’s trademark surrealism offers cartoon scenarios where Donald Trump and Harry Helmsley build a giant wall through the middle of Manhattan, just like Berlin, and create a post apocalyptic absurd adventure, as well as numerous dream scenarios that throw the city into situations where the dreamer must confront his place within it.
Kuper finishes up the collection with work pertaining to 9-11 and how that changed things, including his conceit that New York City wasn’t really part of America.
Kuper’s New York is one filled with raunch and sleaze and weirdness in a more major way than exists now, when the sweeping and sometimes disturbing craziness of the city functioned as an abstract soap opera better than anything you could find on television. For those who never had the adventure of living in that New York, Kuper’s book does an excellent job of relaying that experience through the intensity and dark humor of his art.