“Back to the Toon Age,” now featured at the Edgewood Gallery, focuses on notions of artistic imagination, on the very different ways in which three artists express themselves.
The show encompasses eccentric plaster and mixed-media pieces by J.P. Crangle, the various media David Hicock has utilized in doing animation artworks, and the array of colors seen in Sharon Alama’s paper jewelry and fabric sock critters.
Crangle, it should be noted, is perhaps best known for his caricatures appearing at local venues such as Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse, where his drawings of actors and other celebrities have long graced the walls, and the various Gannon Ice Cream shops.
The Edgewood show doesn’t present any of the caricatures. Instead, it displays “Nosey,” an artwork featuring bright colors and a huge nose; a giraffe-like creature portrayed in an acrylic-and-wood format; ten plaster-and-mixed-media figures called Plaster People. A few evoke trolls, but that’s not true for all of them. They defy facile descriptions; put simply, they spring from the artist’s imagination.
Crangle also has two paper-mache, mixed-media works in the exhibition. “Happy Hour” depicts a woman holding a cup with a mouse in it. “Toxic Stuff” has a more serious tone. There, a male figure, seemingly villainous, stands on a bucket labeled toxic waste.
In addition, the exhibit presents several of Crangle’s cartoon cut-outs. These are whimsical works assembled with materials left over when other artworks were completed.
Hicock, meanwhile, draws on works created during his almost 40 years with Animotion, a local company he founded with his partners in 1983. The group has created a range of artworks for films, television series, advertising agencies and non-profit organizations. They’ve done work for “Dr. Seuss Kindergarten” and “Carmen Sandiego.”
In the current show, most of the artworks come from a pre-digital era, a time when Hicock and his contemporaries worked with paint, pencil on paper and ink on clear animation cels superimposed over a hand-painted background and then photographed on film.
The works certainly survey Animotion’s customer base. More importantly, they document Hicock’s artistic talents. An original production artwork, done for the Rochester Philharmonic, portrays a scene on stage with two pianos and a musician playing a violin. The piece is vivid, colorful.
Two acrylics portray peaceful, pretty outdoor scenes. These were done two decades ago for a National Geographic Society project dealing with the wonder of water. That topic is even more relevant today as scarcity of water is a major problem in the western United States and around the globe.
“Back to the Toon Age” doesn’t completely neglect digital art by Animotion. One illustration, digitally painted, was created for an ActionAge series featuring a protagonist, Virtex.
While the Edgewood exhibition emphasizes work Hicock’s done for Animotion, he does have a separate portfolio of artworks. That includes illustrations for several books and for three posters published by the Syracuse Poster Project). In Syracuse Poster Project’s 2022 line-up, Hicock’s artwork accompanies “Dream,” a haiku written by Emily Buchanan.
Beyond that, he’s a long-time participant in the Open Figure Drawing class and has taken part in their group exhibitions.
Finally, Alama’s jewelry on paper is made from thick watercolor paper which is painted, torn, folded and varnished and then embellished with stones, beads, charms and thread. The earrings and brooches on display at Edgewood reflect her range of designs and color schemes as well as attention to detail. In several instances, she’s incorporated tiny beads into a small surface.
In addition to the jewelry, a basket is full of Alama’s sock critters; two of them are named Sock Kitty and Sock Puppy.
“Back to the Toon Age” is a fun show mixing cartoons, whimsical creatures and cuddly fabric works. It’s well worth a visit to Edgewood.
The exhibit is on display through April 14 at 216 Tecumseh Road. The gallery is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information, call 315-445-8111 or access edgewoodartandframe.com.
Carl Mellor covered visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 through 2019. He continues to write about artists and exhibitions in the Syracuse area.
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