Keeping America’s favorite comic strip alive
Tom Everhart’s ingenious reimagining of Charles Schulz
Wed, May 18, 2011 (5:47 p.m.)
Photo: Justin M. Bowen
To enter Jack Gallery in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian is to immediately be in the thrall of enormous black eyes in a careful rainstorm of color, a wall-sized homage to Snoopy titled “Stalking in L.A.” The emotionally charged black lines—Charles Schulz’s trademark—are frames for other elements of design, pigment and light. But the painting is a Tom Everhart original.
- Jack Gallery
- Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian
- Su-Th, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; F-Sa, 10 a.m.-midnight
- 866-6813, jackgallery.com
“Mr. Schulz believed that Tom Everhart was the only one who understood his ink line, who understood its subtleties,” says Jeremiah Johnson, a communications coordinator for Jack Gallery, which is the exclusive producer of fine art lithographs of Everhart’s work. “He is the only person ever allowed to do this.”
What Everhart is doing and has been doing for many years is experimenting with Schulz’s iconic Peanuts characters in his own art, a one-of-a-kind privilege that demanded Schulz’s artistic blessing and proprietary consent. In preparation for their first meeting in the late 1970s, Everhart spent hours staring at a blown-up frame of the comic strip, astonished by what he calls “animated suspension.”
“These extraordinary, elegant black lines were presiding over my dark studio like suspension cables stretching across a bridge that gracefully wiggle from tower to tower,” Everhart wrote in his 2003 essay Echoes of Influence. He drew parallels to Chinese ink painting and abstract expressionists such as Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, thrilling in the inherent physicality and architecture of the line. The presentation drawings he brought to Schulz demonstrated this understanding, and they spent the rest of the afternoon playing on paper. “From that day forward, his name was Sparky,” Everhart wrote.
Through collections dating back to 1990, you can see Everhart’s style and perspective shift. “The Scream” adds darkness and tactile messiness to Lucy’s gape-mouthed yell. “Bird Lips in a Blue Suede Wig” is all thick paint and whimsy and Woodstock’s face. And the black and white collection Scratch and Sniff is a masterful portrait of tenderness, a boy and his dog. What ties them together is more than just the wit of Peanuts, more than Schulz’s understated and unmistakable aesthetic. It’s Everhart’s ability to capture Schulz’s spirit and quiet power and make them echo.