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School of Visual Arts Honors Illustrator R.O. Blechman with the 25th Annual Masters Series Award and Exhibition

“The Masters Series: R.O. Blechman” October 2 – November 2, 2013 Visual Arts Gallery, 601 West 26 Street, New York City Monday – Saturday, 10:00am – 6:00pm

School of Visual Arts (SVA) will honor illustrator R.O. Blechman with the 25th annual Masters Series Award and exhibition. “The Masters Series: R.O Blechman” is the first major retrospective representing all three genres of the artist’s work: illustrations and editorial cartoons, animations and graphic novels. The exhibition is on view from October 2 through November 2 at the Visual Arts Gallery, 601 West 26 Street, New York City. Admission is free and open to the public.

R.O. Blechman, The Aquarium, pen and ink, 2009
R.O. Blechman, The Aquarium, pen and ink, 2009

Blechman’s trademark squiggly line has given nervous energy, charm and understated humor to his art for the past six decades. He is well known for classic advertising campaigns, such as the television commercial for Alka-Seltzer featuring a talking stomach, and for books including The Juggler of Our Lady (Henry Holt, 1953). He directed the Emmy-winning animated PBS special The Soldier’s Tale (1984) and produced 14 magazine covers for The New Yorker. Blechman’s witty spot illustrations and editorial cartoons have been widely seen in The New York Times, Harpers Bazaar, Esquire, Punch and The Huffington Post.

A member of the Art Directors Hall of Fame and the Designer’s Hall of Fame, Blechman was inducted last year into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Other honors include the National Cartoonists Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and Adweek’s Illustrator of the Year. His work on the animated series Nicholas Nickleby earned him a 1983 Emmy nomination. The following year he received the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement for his direction of The Soldier’s Tale. Blechman’s animated work was the subject of a 2003 retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Kurt Andersen, writer and host of NPR’s Studio 360, is a self-described “lifelong devotee” of the artist. “To me, Bob Blechman’s illustrations are a perfect distillation of civilized charm as of the second half of the 20th century.” The 1967 commercial for Alka-Seltzer was “an ah-ha moment,” he recalls. “Sixty seconds of urbane wit and humanity expressed in this singular, seemingly effortless, totally fetching (and faintly European) economy of form, right there on TV. I was smitten.”

Oscar Robert Blechman, who taught at SVA during the 1960s and 1970s, was born in Brooklyn in 1930. He attended Oberlin College, where he drew illustrations for The Oberlin Review. At age 22 he published his first book, The Juggler of Our Lady, considered a precursor of the modern graphic novel. The book caught the attention of animator John Hubley, who invited him to join Storyboard Studios. Blechman went on to open his own design studio in 1960. During the 1970s he penned Vietnam War editorial cartoons for The Village Voice and produced Simple Gifts, a Christmas special for PBS featuring his own animations and segments by fellow illustrators Maurice Sendak, James McMullan, Seymour Chwast, and Charles B. Slackman. He worked as an ad agency art director in the 1980s and operated his ground-breaking animation studio, The Ink Tank, from 1977 through 2003.

In 1988, SVA founder Silas H. Rhodes instituted the College’s Masters Series, an award and exhibition honoring great visual communicators of our time. Although the achievements of many groundbreaking designers, illustrators, art directors and photographers are known to and lauded by their colleagues, their names often go unrecognized by the general public. The Masters Series brings greater exposure to those whose influence has been felt strongly and by many, yet without widespread recognition.

Masters Series laureates are James McMullan, Marshall Arisman, Saul Bass, Ivan Chermayeff, Seymour Chwast, Paul Davis, Lou Dorfsman, Heinz Edelmann, Jules Feiffer, Shigeo Fukuda, Milton Glaser, April Greiman, Steven Heller, George Lois, Mary Ellen Mark, Ed McCabe, Duane Michals, Tony Palladino, Paula Scher, Edward Sorel, Deborah Sussman, George Tscherny, Paul Rand and Massimo Vignelli.

The Visual Arts Gallery, located at 601 West 26 Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, is open 10:00am to 6:00pm, Monday through Saturday. Admission is free. The gallery is accessible by wheelchair. For further information call 212.592.2145.

School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers, and creative professionals for more than six decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, dynamic curriculum, and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. Comprised of more than 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus and 35,000 alumni in 100 countries, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world.

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