Ronnie Cutrone: Tataboo

2 October - 22 November 2003


Since I began seriously painting animated cartoon characters into my work in 1982, I have always sought to create a universal language. A visual language by which all who see it may immediately understand its meaning. For me this is the essence of all Pop or “popular” art. I chose cartoon characters because I truly love them and I believe that one should paint what one loves. Also the true meaning of the word Cartoon has it's history rooted in cave paintings, ancient illuminated manuscripts, Da Vinci and Warhol, up to the present with Mickey Mouse and Me. Cartoons have a built in time line paralleling human history. Finally the cartoons that I chose have a pre-programmed menu of character traits that cover the spectrum of human nature. Viewers know how these characters speak, move and even what they think, often identifying with their assets and their defects. The Cartoons, representing human nature are a vehicle that allows me to observe and comment on the social and political implications of our world. The fields through which they move in my work have been flags and in 1990 I began including early American quilts. The flags were an ideal solution to the problem of choosing a world for the characters to exist in. I somehow wanted to bring them into our world “the Real World”, place them on a stage under a spotlight of harsh symbolism, and national boundaries, then set them loose. I have always hoped they, in their innocence, would bridge the man made boundaries of nationalism, racism and all the other-isms, straight into the heart. That does happen, but, I have also become no stranger to controversy. I have learned to accept this as part of what I do as an artist. Over the years I have discovered that most people would prefer me to paint on “other peoples” flags, missing the point that we are all one people. I was fortunate to become known during the height of the Trans Avant Garde when an international spirit of cooperation was in vogue. I still believe that the basic concept of oneness is timeless and a secret dream in the hearts of millions. This to me is the only sane reality. That reality today is being reflected in the computer revolution where boundaries, walls and passports are nonexsistant on the world wide webbe.
In 1990 I began using early American quilts as backgrounds for the characters. I loved the idea of them being 20th century antiques and so personal by nature. When soldiers went to war the women would sew these quilts in anticipation of their return from the battlefield. I can't help but think of the sleepless nights and tears shed on these paintings. I realized both the quilts and the U.S. flag, sewn by Betsy Ross, were crafted by women. I like the idea that a sa male painter I can include the beautiful work of women in my male oriented view of the world. This adds something to the work for me which is in keeping with my belief that great art is universal, as well as deeply personal, regardless of nationality or sex. In all my exhibitions I hope to reach a childhood innocence long lost in anger and fear, to bring a smile of wisdom".
Ronnie Cutrone