tv American Artifacts Off the Record Bar Political Cartoons CSPAN April 2, 2021 3:08pm-3:34pm EDT
>> absolutely. >> great exhibition. i really encourage everyone to do so. >> thank you for having us. it was a real pleasure. weeknights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend. on c-span3. tonight, an evening of programs about the nation's fifth president james monroe. we start with a look at his relationship with george washington, while the two men shared a bond forged in the revolutionary war the politics of a young nation drove a wedge between them. in the lecture from the mary washington great live series, scott harris explains where things went wrong. watch tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and watch american history tv every weekend on c-span3. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums, and historic sites around the country. the historic hay-adams hotel just across lafayette square from the white house.
its bar, off the record, is decorated with a decoration of political cartoons and featured in the journal of the white house historical association. even the coasters are updated with current political caricatures. we spoke with vice president and general manager hans bruland and "politico" cartoonist matt wuerker about the artwork on display. >> the hotel was built in 1928 on the site of residences of john hague and henry adams. and after the family relinquished their rights to the site, in 1926, the developer built this hotel along with the other hotel, which today is the saint regis. the hotel has been in existence since 1928. this bar has been in existence somewhere starting in the '60s or '70s. but with my arrival in 1999,
this bar was already known as "off the record," a place to be seen and not heard, and it was not in this color and format and layout. it was pretty well the same bar, in the basement of the hotel. and it's kind of like this speak easy place, and it has become very popular over the years. well, the decorations are political cartoons displayed from various artists dating back to a collection of atwood who at this stage, we do keep some of the original artwork still in the house. from what i know, that the previous ownership in the '80s and '90s decided to bring in some artwork, after having a few beers i guess over the bar, and in the bar, and that's how it really established, but we have built up this more so now, because we're using local
artists, and pulitzer prize-winning artists in order to continue the tradition of rotating political art through the bar. >> my understanding is this goes back to about 2000, they re-did the bar here at the hotel and they went with this classic washington cigar den, and back then you could smoke in bars in washington, and so they re-did it with the wayback chairs and the booths and the dark burgundy wall, and somebody had the brain storm that they wanted to do cartoons for art. and the original genesis and collection that was on the walls was from art wood who collected cartoons, and ended up donating his 30,000 cartoon collection to the library of congress. and he made an arrangement with the hotel to loan them a bunch of classic caricatures from his
clesk collection. and since then, i got involved in 2008 thanks to my buddy richard thompson when they wanted to update the care ta caricatures that basically was more current. the wood collection was 60s, 70s, and 80s and the newer clients didn't recognize the people from the nixon and the reagan administrations. so they wanted people from, you know, the clinton and obama administrations. so that's when richard thompson, who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, was brought in, and richard was just an astounding caricaturist, he was really the top flight caricaturist at the time, did a lot of stuff for "u.s. news and world report" and "the new yorker" and richard came in with portfolio drawings and they got some of those and they wanted more and then richard said, check out my friend matt who works at "politico," so i came in with a pile and got to also
fill in some of the more recent political figures. i straddle both worlds. i work as a caricaturist and a political cartoonist. and there is a difference. political cartoonists use words, word bubble, and when i'm wearing my political cartoonist hat, i'm really a political commentator. just like somebody who's running a column in the op-ed page, except i have the advantage, i draw my opinion, and ideally, express it with a certain amount of humor and the columnists have to rely on just using their words. the old saw about a picture is worth a thousand words is actually quite true. i mean you know, somebody who writes an 800-word essay, about tax policies, or something, has to rely on the reader who is willing to invest five minutes to read those 800 words. but the magic of the political cartoon is that you glance at a cartoon and we have, humans have a visual acuity and we pick up
stuff really fast, we recognize a face, a setting, a metaphor, a pond, and you can process a cartoon really quickly so we have a certain advantage, i think. there's some people that think political cartooning is going away, and it is sort of an archaic form of political expression, and i feel just the opposite. i think that political cartoons are the perfect vehicle for our short attention span, twitter, social media culture. and i'm sticking to that. so the power of positive thinking. caricaturists are a little bit different in that caricaturists don't have the advantage of using word bubble, and captions. it's purely a visual thing. and you're not really expressing a complicated political opinion, you're basically just trying to capture a character. a good caricaturist can load up with other stuff and insert a
political opinion, or maybe there's some detail, or there's some more commentary in the setting, or the clothing of the caricature. i learned this just recently, after working as a caricaturist for 40 years. the word caricature comes from the italian word caricara, i'm probably mispronouncing, it means to load, as in a boat or a cart, or a gun, and so a caricature is, it is not a portrait, you're not just trying to capture the physical attributes of somebody, you're loading that portrait with a certain edgy humor hopefully and a little commentary and if you do it right, you're capturing more than just the physical attributes of somebody i was very lucky in that as a young man, i grew up in los angeles, and when i was in high school, and first interested in cartooning, i got to meet paul conrad who is one of the giants
of the field. three time pulitzer prize winner for the l.a. times. most proudly, i mean he was most proud of the fact that he was the only cartoonist that made nixon's enemies list. so conrad sort of opened the door to me that this is a viable career path which is sort of an unclear path if you think about it. but he was very encouraging and inspiring, and then, you know, you start out in my teens and 20s, i would look around and you know, i love to work with pat olive and her block at the "washington post," david levine who is probably, i don't know what's the right word, he was pivotal and very influential in the world of caricatures and in fact, a lot of the -- you still see it in my work somewhat, some of these other works, like these really wonderful, he signed this, but his name was ed vaultman, was very similar to
levine. levine was a master of the fluid cross-hatch. the big bubble head and the little body and then the wry twist with some other little detail that was sort of put in there. so levine, like a lot of other cartoonists was an early influence of mine. that's where i fell in love with cross-hatching. bar, it's a wonderful collection of cartoons that spans a lot of decades, in fact, a century, and it goes back to another one of the great grand daddies of political cartooning, kepler, who drew for, i think it was actually a publisher, one of the joint owners of puck magazine. and this is back in the golden age of political cartooning. kepler would do these beautiful color lithographs that would be two page spreads for puck magazine, and if you would remember your american history books, there's the wonderful standard oil cartoon of the oil tank with the tentacles of the
octopus representing rockefeller reaching out and to call it a cartoon is almost putting it down because it was a real work of art, it was an oil painting actually done as a color lithograph. there are a couple of keplers from puck magazine. probably the oldest ones in the bar. and then these ed boltman and ron covington over in this corner, i think would be sort of the next ones. the vaultman cartoons are almost all from the reagan era. and i think that was when richard and i were brought in, it was when people were failing to recognize jean kirkpat trick and people like that. i had the bartenders when i would come in to have a drink some of the bartenders will come in or the new help will go and we will go around and will you help us because they're constantly being asked who are these people and that's bob dole. do you remember bob dole. and they shrugged.
no i don't remember bob dole. this wall is sort of a mish mash of different cartoonist's work. this is richard thompson. that's me. another richard thompson. that's me. these are a couple of color vaultmans that are sort of interesting in comparison to the pure cross-hatch ones that are around the fireplace over there. these are water color images. these are obviously done in the 1970s. richard thompson's style is just, i mean as a cartoonist i just look at this and it is such a beautiful combination of loose lines, he was influenced a lot by some of the great edge lish cartoonists like arnold sorel but then he took it to his own sort of place. i aspired to this kind of looseness but i'm still at age 60-something working on it. this is one that i did for "politico." there is a caricature of bernie sanders.
you can see sort of the difference. i mean i do a cross-hatch and add water color. and richard's approach was a classic sort of dip pen. he works where it fit in perfectly in the 19th century in some ways but also very, very modern. this is another richard thompson. you can sort of see the difference in that i rely on lots of little line, little black and white lines and sort of harken back to the wood engraving of the thomas nast era or something, i guess i'm trying to look at that, and richard's style, the render is done with water color and he lets the paint render the shapes. >> paul ryan for "politico." there's a dig cheney and a karl rove. those are both richard's up there. it's interesting, this wall gets a lot of attention when i come into the bar, and i'm sitting around. usually people, as they're leaving the bar will stop and
this wall, maybe it's because it's right by the door gets a lot of attention. here's a shameless self promotion thing that i did for "politico," way back in the very beginning, one of our reporters, we had a piece about odd couples in washington, people you wouldn't expect to find say getting a drink at a bar, and so of course, this is when i had started doing stuff with the hay-adams, this is rahm emanuel and mitch mcconnell and i situated them actually in this bar for this one. this was a little cover illustration for "politico" back when rahm was chief of staff at the white house for obama. i was far too nice to mitch mcconnell in this one, but sometimes that happens. and then here's a biden, also one of mine. and a couple more richard thompson's. laura bush. and again, just this lovely sophisticated, it looks so sort of simple, but the
sophistication and the color scheme and the painting of richard's stuff still sort of is annoying and wonderful. and up in the corner, that's our trump, kevin kelleh recommend draws for "the economist" did just recently with a twitter board on his shoulder. a fabulous piece of color art. in the bar, probably 75% of the work that is on the walls is really straight caricatures, and there are a number of real political cartoons here as well, and this particular corner has one by me, and one by kevin keleher one for "the economist" and one for "politico" and you can immediately tell the difference and we have word bubble, captions, a lot more information and opinion being conveyed in these of course which is really what we're about. kevin's is a lovely example of
good political cartoon, sort of built around a clever visual metaphor and it is conveyed really quickly so in this case it is the boxing ring and israel and palestine going at it, and obama is the new ref and it's round 3,487,000, and then you see the old reves from the boxing ring, bush, clinton, bush again, reagan, all beat up. and it's a lovely example of how you can take a very complicated political issue and ideally, if you're doing a good political cartoon, you can distill it down to a nice visual nugget that can conveys the complexity quickly and hopefully with a little bit of bite. this is a cartoon i did that naturally they like here at the hay-adams because it is the head of the u.s. chamber of commerce
which happens to be next door, and all of the money that they were spending on the campaign, i believe, i should date my cartoons but i believe this one is from 2008. and resistance is futile and they're blasting the democrats with piles and piles of cash. and i understand he actually likes this cartoon, which fills me with mixed emotions. these two are the oldest ones in the bar and really represent kind of the golden age of american political cartooning, which you would have found in puck magazine, which was a cartoon, a political cartoon magazine. these were done by kepler, they're color lith graphs, i wish i new the exact details of the politics at the time, but here you have a classic political cartoon trope, the big thumb of, the big interests, being held down on the speaker, and then it says, the caption down here is very small, the
leader of the minority, you can't get the speaker's eye because it's under the thumb of big interests, and this of course was uncle sam. uncle sam being a creation of political cartoonists, and i believe most people credit thomas nast with really sort of creating the uncle sam that the rest of us recognize and cartoonists utilize all the time. but this is not, this is the actual lith graphic print, and the nice thing about puck, and the wonderful golden age of editorial cartooning is that they give cartoonists lots of space, cartoonists these day, we get shrunk down more like that when we're in print. but back to my sort of optimistic wrap on editorial cartooning, this is perhaps some of the best color printing, especially at the time, to display a political cartoon, but
in 2018, cartoonists are working in the digital realm, and the biggest audience for cartoons are now on smartphones and ipads, and retina displays actually let us do all sorts of elegant water color and other kind of nuance that begins to rival the kind of cartoon can do on a big scale like kepler got to do so in some ways we're getting back to this type of cartoon. these two cartoons are by one who draws for the "washington post" on the digital side and does political cartoons that are often animated gifs, she won a pulitzer prize back i think it was in 2000, for her static political cartoons and has moved on to animation. and these, i think these were studies that ann did for an animation that she created around the inauguration of obama. and ann's got a different style. she's not a cross-hatcher.
she actually went to cal art and is a trained animator and you can see it in her very strong line style that really stands out. she now works also in water color as well. the hay-adams has a sort of special place in washington in this bar in particular, the first time i came in the bar was probably 17 years ago, and a friend of mine came, brought me down here, and i think you can still smoke in bars in washington and this was a smoking bar, this was a cigar bar, and we came in on a cold winter night, and i had just moved to washington from the west coast, and was fascinated by the culture of the city, and you walked in here, and there was this inversion layer of cigar smoke and all of these people all dressed up in suits or whatever, sitting around, having conversations in wing back chairs. it was right out of the cartoon. it was like oh, my god, this is the den of inic ty that you sort
of imagined being in the basement of the white house or something. and within that, there was a cave, one booth in the back that they can close off and it's, there's really no place like it in washington. then a few years ago, besides providing cartoons to decorate the walls, hans had the idea of doing coasters. and so they commissioned original art for these. and cal and ann and myself every six months or so will design little caricature cartoons of people who are in the news. in the news for coasters. and hand it out to people here. and it's an interesting exercise in american politics, because you know, certain caricatures like this, this is hillary clinton, you know it is going to be somewhat evergreen, she's not going anywhere but some of the other characters that we draw,
you're not sure if they're going to be in news, for instance sean spicer was an obvious one that we were thinking about doing when trump came to town, and fortunately, we didn't do a coaster for spicer because he came and went. likewise, scaramucci and the like. but these are always really fun assignments and we situate politicoss in the bars doing things and add little details like this is the caricature, drinking with a beer stein that looks remarkably like donald trump. little touches like that. this is hillary, leaving the hotel and has bill carrying all of the baggage. the luggage. the baggage. you get the joke. and these are more cartoons from the art wood collection. these were done by ron covington. again, back in the, mostly in the '80s i think. and covington's got a
distinctive style. a little bit related to the david livingstyle caricature but he took it in his own direction, and there's very light cross-hatching in here, with a lot of gray scale, and they're beautifully done. there's caricatures are a very strange thing. when you're trying to caricature somebody, you exaggerate features and then there are limits to the exaggerations. some caricatures are good of going right to the very edge of taking it away from something you would recognize as that individual. covington's stuff is kind of like that. this board is yeltsin. it is a wonderful extremely exaggerated, pushing the forms, and that's just wonderful, here's a bird, senator bird, west virginia, jerry brown, it's always fascinating when you also work with people, sometimes i'll talk to art students, and do workshops with caricatures, and it's amazing how you don't
always have to be so rendered in detail. i mean a presidential caricature in particular, it's true of probably all political figures, can become a simple iconic thing. you know george bush and barack obama i could draw six lines and people would go, well, that's george bush. or there's barack obama. and once you've done the outline of the face and the ears with obama, even before you completed it, people can tell what you're drawing, so it's a mystical thing. our facial recognition software in our brains is very acute and it's one of the things that caricatures can use to their advantage. >> it takes a little effort to be nonpartisan when you're doing things for the coasters and stuff. i mean my mistake and what i pay for at "politico" is to have an opinion and express it strongly and the same with ann and the
same with cal and we have to dial that back which i also understand, it's not just that we don't want to unnecessarily royal people when they're coming in for a drink at the bar or something like that, but one of the nice things about the bar and frankly i've learned about the culture of washington is there's this lovely word that members of congress use called comedy where, comity, where you get along, you figure out how to get along with people you may disagree with the politicalcally but you can sit around and have a drink with them and that's sort of the spirit of the bar and sort of the spirit that i think we all bring to the coasters. so we'll suspend our political opinions and save that for our political cartoon, and in this case, we'll have just some light-hearted fun with the caricatures and the coasters. >> weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's
available every weekend on c-span3. tonight, an evening of programs about the nation's fifth president, james monroe. we start with a look at his relationship with george washington. while the two men shared a bond forged in the revolutionary war, the politics of the young nation drove a wedge between them. in this lecture, from the university of mary washington's great live series, scott harris explains where things went wrong. watch tonight, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern, and enjoy american history tv, every weekend, on c-span3. the annual abraham lincoln symposium at the former president's sense of humor, the ford theater society hosted the symposium at the historic ford theater in washington, d.c. to highlight the 16th president life, career and legacy. this is a minutes. -- this is a minutes.