Join us to celebrate the launch of the stunning, head-turning, “graphic opera” masterpiece from acclaimed painter and illustrator Thomas Woodruff, in conversation with painter and comics artist Keith Mayerson. Preorder your copy here.
Francis Rothbart! follows a feral child who is raised by magpies and other creatures and is repeatedly struck by lightning. Because of the phenomena, the child develops eccentric talents, which he then abuses, leading to his ultimate destruction by the same natural world that once nurtured him.
Written mostly in rhymed verse, Francis’s picaresque saga unfolds in an allegorical environment, much like the topographical constructions behind renaissance religious paintings. Referencing both the Venetian landscapes of Bellini, Pierro di Cosimo and Carpaccio, mixed with the unlikely animated backdrops of Jay Ward and Chuck Jones, Woodruff’s images recall the fictive gardens of a paradise lost that lingers somewhere deep in all our souls, moist and dark like the caves of the pious saints.
Combining both paintings and drawings, each scene is a visual and verbal feast that transports us to a place in which trees anthropomorphize into figures bending from the weight of stalactite crowns, an iris becomes the gown for an oneiric sprite, and the sky rains down tears, as if mimicking the melancholy of a weeping willow. In a muted palette, Woodruff’s carbon and white charcoal pencil drawings bring us ever closer to this mythical ecology. The artist lovingly focuses on every detail: ethereal, fragile blossoms, petals, roots, and leaves; impressively observed wildlife creatures; and each curve of the hand lettered text is rendered by the delicate hand of an illustrative obsessionist with a penchant for the poignant. Woodruff’s images are multi-sourced amalgamations that echo with familiarity, portraying a world that is not only our own but also exists in the place of our half-remembered dreams.
Thomas Woodruff’s first graphic novel is a self-described “graphic opera” unlike anything ever created, a tour de force of words and images in harmony that will be one of the most talked-about books of the decade.
Thomas Woodruff’s works have been included in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally including the Whitney Museum of Art (NY), The Norman Rockwell Museum (MA), the Kohler Arts Center (WI), and the National Gallery of Australia. His work is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum (NY), MIT List Center (MA), The New School (NY), the Honolulu Museum of Art (HI), the New Orleans Museum of Art (LA), the Greenville County Museum (SC), and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. He lives in upstate New York and recently retired as the Chairman of the Illustration and Cartooning Departments at the School of Visual Arts in New York where he held the post for 20 years.
Keith Mayerson has professionally exhibited his art in galleries and museums since 1993. His exhibitions are often installations of images that create larger narratives. Each work is imbued with allegorical content that relates to the world, yet allows through its formal nuances for the transcendent and sublime. The works stand on their own for form and content, but like a prose poem of images on walls, experienced in context the images as a series, the viewer creates the ultimate meaning for the installations. His work is featured in the permanent collections of the Whitney, MOMA, MOCCA, LACMA, SFMOMA, the Berkeley Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, The Davis Museum of Art of Wellesley College, the RISD Museum, and the American University Museum. His graphic novel Horror Hospital Unplugged, a collaboration with the writer Dennis Cooper, is well known among graphic artists, and he is currently working on a graphic novel on James Dean to be published by Fantagraphics. Mayerson’s work was prominently featured in the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art with a solo show My American Dream, the Whitney Biennial, and the Whitney Museum’s inaugural show, America is Hard to See.
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