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University of Kentucky Museum invites viewers to go gonzo for Ralph Steadman illustrations
Ralph Steadman, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, 1970, Pen, brush, ink, and watercolor on paper, Private collection © Ralph Steadman.

LEXINGTON, KY.- From the pages of Hunter S. Thompson’s work and The New York Times to classics like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Animal Farm,” visual storyteller Ralph Steadman has made an undeniable mark on the world of illustration. Art enthusiasts are being treated to an exhibition of works from the artist’s 65-year career as the University of Kentucky Art Museum brings “Ralph Steadman: A Retrospective” to the Bluegrass Feb. 16-May 5.

Combining expressive lines and emphatic ink splatters, Ralph Steadman’s work is an immediately recognizable style that has spanned decades. Featuring more than 100 original artworks and prints of Steadman’s, this retrospective examines the range of his projects in literature, theatre, television and product design.

“With a sardonic eye, and the whip of his pen, Ralph Steadman challenges us to see the world in all its glory, grit, humor and beauty. Viewers of all ages will recognize his work, even if they don’t know his name,” UK Art Museum Director Stuart Horodner said.

Originally curated in 2013 by Anita O'Brien at London’s Cartoon Museum, and reorganized to travel throughout the U.S. by Sadie Williams, Ralph Steadman Art Collection executive director, the retrospective includes the sketches Steadman created as a student in the 1950s to present day drawings. Also on view are letters, press clippings and materials selected from the artist’s studio.

Of note to Kentuckians and fans of gonzo journalism, this exhibition features work from Steadman’s legendary collaborations with maverick journalist Hunter S. Thompson, including work documenting the Kentucky Derby for an article in Scanlan Monthly in 1970. In addition to his illustrations for Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” he also created pieces for Private Eye, Punch, The Observer, The Guardian and Rolling Stone, among others.

While Steadman’s work was used to illustrate such literary classics as “Treasure Island,” he also created images for and authored numerous books of his own for readers of all ages, including “Critical Critter,” “I. Leonardo,” “Sigmund Freud,” “Emergency Mouse” and “No Room to Swing a Cat.”

It seems 2019 will truly be a gonzo year for the Commonwealth. In coordination with the exhibition at UK, the Frazier History Museum and the Speed art Museum in Louisville will be hosting exhibitions which look at different aspects of infamous journalist and Kentucky son, Hunter S. Thompson.

Exhibition tour:

1 June - 8 sept 2019 Kansas City Public Library, Missouri
5 Oct 2019 - 20 jan 2020 Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum, Eugene, Oregon

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