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Exhibit calculated to drive you Mad

A timely, almost bittersweet subtext informs The Mad Generation: A Lowbrow Tribute to the Art & Artists of Mad Magazine at the Gallery at East Atlanta Tattoo. The 56-year-old satiric humor magazine goes from monthly to quarterly publication with its April issue. Sometimes it's hard to see the lighter side of the slumping print business model. ??Nevertheless, Mad shaped generations of creative sensibilities, as proved by the more than 30 artists who pay affectionate homage to its daffily iconic images at East Atlanta’s self-styled lowbrow gallery. Curator Dirk Hays clearly struck a chord with the gallery’s stable of artists. Most of the pieces tend to avoid complex deconstruction or politicized interpretations, but will tickle people who are already fans of Mad’s mildly subversive cartooning.??Several artists honor the late Don Martin, who penned many of Mad’s most rubbery cartoon figures. Eric Scsavnicki offers large, Pop Art-style portraits of Martin characters such as Capt. Klutz. JustinK’s “I’m Done Fartin’, RIP Don Martin” puts a blue-tinted version of one of the artist's typical everymen on a skateboard, using a symbol of youth to salute an artistic old-timer. John Mulder offers a large-scale, suburb-spoofing take on the old “Mad Fold-In” images, presenting two works side-by-side — one “folded,” the other not — so you don’t have to rumple the whole painting. (Because that would be crazy.)??By far the two most popular subjects in The Mad Generation are the magazine’s gap-toothed mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, and the beaky-nosed, slapstick secret agents of “Spy vs. Spy.” The latter embodied the self-defeating dichotomy of Cold War cloak-and-dagger exploits. William Hood renders the duo on a grand scale in matching paintings of the Black Spy and the White Spy as emblems of the military industrial complex. ??Sam Leyja’s “The Death of Spy” faithfully emulates the comic strip’s original style to show one spy succumb to a lethal illness, and his distraught opposite commit suicide, carrying their relationship to its logical end. Scott Thigpen uses the spies to offer a playful interpretation of Orwellian oppression by riffing on the Big Brother imagery of the 1984 Apple computer ad.
Trish Chenard’s 3-D mixed-media work presents the most elaborate and puckish version of Neuman, portraying him as a Christ figure. “Supper Club” re-creates the Last Supper, with the apostles replaced by Mad’s “usual gang of idiots,” including artist Dave Berg and publisher William Gaines. The eyes of Chenard’s Neuman look a little dull and downcast, in contrast to their usually cheerful “What, me worry?” blankness.

Many of the Neuman portraits offer instantly recognizable caricatures such as Chewbacca, a devilish Teletubby, Che Guevara, Edgar Allan Poe and two Frankenstein monsters (one by Hays). Most wouldn't look out of place on the magazine’s own cover, indicating the artists’ unironic love for their subject’s sublime silliness.



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