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Georgia Museum of Art celebrates illustrator Jack Davis with fall exhibition
Jack Davis (American, b. 1924), Elvis performing in front of female audience, Mad #30 Pen and ink on Craftint duotone paper, 11 x 16 inches. Collection of Roger and Terry Hill.
ATHENS, GA.- The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will present the exhibition “Beyond the Bulldog: Jack Davis” from Nov. 3, 2012, to Jan. 6, 2013. Organized by guest curator Patrick Dean, a cartoonist himself, who sits on the board of the Jack Davis Foundation, the exhibition goes deeper into Davis’ career than the sports and caricature work for which he is best known, focusing on his black-and-white drawings in particular. This exhibition is also part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts festival, to be held Nov. 3–11.

Perhaps best known in Georgia for his depictions of Southeastern Conference mascots tussling, Jack Burton Davis Jr. (b. 1924) has had a lengthy career in illustration and cartooning, with an immediately recognizable style and an influence that extends far beyond his home state. Having published his first cartoon at the age of 12, Davis studied with the artist Lamar Dodd in the University of Georgia’s art school, which he attended on the G.I. Bill, and honed his skills drawing for the Red and Black (the student newspaper) and Bullsheet, an Athens humor publication. After graduating, he moved to New York, where he attended the Art Students League before landing work with William Gaines at EC Comics.

Famed in particular for his speed and a tendency to create images overflowing with colorful characters, he was one of the founding artists of Mad magazine, supplied covers for Time and TV Guide and designed album art and movie posters aplenty. Davis created his first art for UGA’s athletics program in 1948, when he drew Coach Wally Butts for the front and back of that year’s media guide, and the relationship has lasted ever since.

Dean said, “Davis’ prolific career goes further back than most people realize. Some of this exhibition displays his work from EC Comics, including two complete comic stories for museum visitors to read. These pages show his skill as a sequential artist, with an emphasis on people’s pained and terrified faces and hand gestures. Still, even in these comics, his familiar style hints at his trademark humor and warmth. There’s also something particularly southern in his work of all eras, like his running figures with clumps of red clay stuck to their feet.”

This exhibition attempts to show Davis’ range by bringing together a selection of his original work that demonstrates his breadth of subjects and his skills as an artist focusing on American popular culture.

Dean continued, “The point of the show isn’t to shun his more popular sports drawing, but to bring attention to his work that may not be as well known to the general public. Visitors may recognize some of these images, but I hope they appreciate the level of detail Davis put into his work. Some of that detail gets lost when the images are shrunk down and printed on paper stock of varying quality. Studying Jack Davis’ crosshatching and brushwork will be a real treat to anyone who’s admired this man’s work.”

Dean will speak on Davis’ career Sunday, Nov. 4, at 3 p.m. at the museum, with a reception to follow.

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