GARY PANTER (born 1950) helped define the look of punk, designed Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and is known for plenty of other stuff — including multiple Jimbo graphic novels, virtuoso drawing, and searing image-making. Innumerable artists, as has been said of the Beatles, have based their entire careers on the briefest of his ideas. What’s often overlooked about Panter, though, is his nuanced approach to human relationships — the emotions that pass between men and women, but also between men and men, even hillbillies and hillbillies. Gary was raised, in Texas, to be a certain type of man; but the Sixties and Seventies happened. He and I often talk about manhood, and that usually means: relationships. He’s spent decades wondering about how a 21st-century dude is supposed to do and feel. His most recent paintings on paper, which are among the best of his career, observe points of conflict, seduction, befuddlement: four women in business suits, each going a different direction; a cowboy astride a horse, staring at the viewer; a crush of oddly soft gladiators in combat; a general meeting his aide’s white-clad wife; a loin-cloth man menacing a woman with a spear. These moments seem to me like Panter grappling with daily life and wondering about how we communicate, which is both a literal aspect of his work (he is a consummate hand-letterer) and at the core of his graphic narratives, which often occur in Dal Tokyo, a Japan-Texas urban cultural collision on Mars.
When it comes to manhood, relationships, communication, money, art, Gary doesn’t offer answers, thank heavens! But he’s awfully fun to sidle up next to for some jawboning.
READ HILOBROW POSTS by GARY PANTER: Jack Kirby | Tadanori Yokoo | Peter Saul | Yasuji Tanioka | H.C. Westermann | Öyvind Fahlström | Cal Schenkel | Eduardo Paolozzi | Tod Dockstader | Yayoi Kusama | Walter Lantz | Shigeru Sugiura | Todd Rundgren | Yoshikazu Ebisu | Jim Nutt | Judy Henske | Tod Dockstader | Dick Briefer
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Woody Allen.
READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).