“Paul Conrad was such a sweetheart,” said College of the Canyons Gallery Director Larry Hurst of the famed political cartoonist.
“It’s funny because he was utterly despised by so many of the people he drew.”
Whether it was the White House sinking in murky waters, Richard Nixon walking over a mound of skulls, or George W. Bush running with his pants on fire, Conrad always made sure his work was sharp, biting and unfiltered.
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“One of the things he made clear to the owners of the Los Angeles Times when they asked him to join was that he be given complete freedom,” said Hurst.
One of Conrad’s pieces shows Nixon nailing himself to a cross.
“I, Con: The Brilliant Work of Paul Conrad” is currently running at the College of the Canyons Art Gallery and will finish on September 30. It is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The exhibit features 54 signed limited editions copies from the artist that received three Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime.
“I, Con” first started taking shape one year ago when COC Political Science Professor Russell Richardson came to Hurst with the idea of putting a show together featuring political cartoonists.
Hurst immediately thought of Conrad, whom he refers to as the most important political cartoonist of the last 50 years.
After getting his start with the Denver Post, Conrad left after 14 years to become the chief editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, which, in 1964, was considered a conservative paper.
Otis Chandler, then owner of the paper, wanted to change that – to shake things up in the torrid political climate of the Vietnam War.
So, he came to Conrad, with the hope that this controversial and fearless cartoonist could help turn his publication into a modern, nonpartisan institution.
Conrad agreed, but stressed his need to create without interference. Nobody did.
During Conrad’s 30 years at the paper, he would make Richard Nixon’s enemies list as well as draw phone calls from Ronald Reagan to the paper complaining about his humiliating portrayal in Conrad’s cartoons.
To learn more about Conrad and view some of his work, visit proandconrad.com.
Paul Conrad died of natural causes at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes on Saturday, September 4, four days after the exhibit opened. He was 86.