A Little More Basil, Please

July 13th, 2009 | Posted in MAD Magazine

MAD #11 Cover
Image Courtesy Doug Gilford’s MAD Cover Site.

The Gladstone Gallery on 24th Street in New York City will open a show of the original work of Basil Wolverton on June 20th, which will run through August 14th. The show does indeed include the collage of this beautiful and famous cover from MAD #11. There is bound to be plenty of great stuff to see.

The official press release:


The Gladstone Gallery

Basil Wolverton
Curated by Cameron Jamie

515 West 24th Street, New York
June 20 to August 14, 2009

Gladstone Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition by American graphic artist and cartoonist Basil Wolverton curated by Cameron Jamie. Basil Wolverton submitted his first cartoon for publication in 1925 when he was only sixteen and remained an active cartoonist from the 1940s through to the 1970s. His unique and humorously grotesque drawings reveal both his fantastic wit and inventive technique, once famously described in LIFE Magazine as the “spaghetti and meatball school of design.”

Wolverton had no formal training as an artist, creating his own style that distinguished him from the other cartoonists of his generation. As he said, “I know I draw things that look like all kinds of organs and glands, it is like the monkey which, if he pounded away for a million years, might accidentally type out the “Star Spangled Banner’ lyrics.” Generations of artists including Peter Saul, Ed Ruscha, Robert Williams, Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley, and Cameron Jamie have been influenced by his meticulous technique and pictorial freedom, in addition to its undeniable impact on numerous cartoonists from R. Crumb to Drew Friedman.

This exhibition includes a wide spectrum of Wolverton’s work from his earliest drawings published in numerous comic books, including “Spacehawk” and “Powerhouse Pepper,” to his very detailed caricatures, with sculpted and exaggerated features. Perhaps the most famous body of work in the exhibition are his drawings for Harvey Kurtzman’s comic-book version of MAD Magazine from the 1950s. Also included are portraits made for Topps Chewing Gum in the 1960s, which appeared on bubble gum posters and stickers. Wolverton turned to illustrating Biblical themes and events in his later years, represented here by thirteen drawings from the Apocalypse series based on the Book of Revelation. These drawings are regarded among his finest and many of these illustrations were reproduced in Plain Truth magazine.

Born in 1909 in Central Point, Oregon, Basil Wolverton resided for most of his life in the Pacific Northwest until his death in 1978. His work has been published in a variety of magazines and comic books, from MAD Magazine, America’s Humor Magazine, The Portland News, Plop! and Hollywood Today. His work has been featured in Timely Comics, Circus Comics and Target Comics. He also contributed to the Li’l Abner Comic Strip and LIFE Magazine. In 2006, his work was exhibited at The Portland Art Center in Oregon and in 2007 the CSUF Grand Art Center in Santa Ana, California presented a solo exhibition of Wolverton’s oeuvre from the collection of Glenn Bray. The works selected and presented in this exhibition are also from Bray’s private archive/collection.

Opening: Friday, June 19th from 5.30-7.30pm
For further information please contact Eric Nylund
T:212.206.9300    enylund@gladstonegallery.com

Wolverton’s gross and macabre work, with it’s popping eyeballs and giant, crater-like skin pores, made it a perfect fit for certin types of MAD articles and his work became quite recognizable as part of the MAD legacy. Later his son Monte would carry on the tradition. Of course Wolverton’s work appeared in many different publications and products, perhaps most famously adorning many of the Wacky Package sticker and cards we children of the 70’s remember fondly.

It should be a great exhibit.


  1. Michael Garisek says:

    I dated that girl in H.S.
    She dropped me for some other guy


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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