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The Dual-Nature of Satire

From his youth in the 1950s until his death in the attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2015, the French satirical illustrator Georges Wolinski often returned to drawing a particular image: a man standing at the edge of a cliff.

Sometimes, Mr. Wolinski drew the man alone and pretending to be the master of the universe. Sometimes, the man is more darkly realistic about his prospects, looking over the cliff to see an open grave. And other times, the man is with a woman, and the existential seriousness of the cliff is no match for more everyday concerns. “Did you think to turn off the gas?” the man says. “No,” she replies.

Metaphysically inclined as he was, Mr. Wolinski, editor in chief of the satirical monthly magazine Charlie Mensuel from 1970 to 1981 and one of Charlie Hebdo’s principal illustrators from 1992, was better known for his political provocations than for his existential musings. His killing in 2015 at the hands of Islamist extremists had a wide impact, starting an international debate about censorship and the future of satire.

But an exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in the French capital, timed for the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 student uprisings and running through May 13, seeks to explore Mr. Wolinski’s metaphysical satire rather than his well-known political radicalism.

A concurrent exhibition — running through June 3 at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, France’s national library — stands in contrast, presenting a more typical approach to political satire. The editorial cartoons of Jean Plantureux, known as Plantu, are provocative, topical and clear in their opinion. Taken together, the two exhibitions question whether it is existential inquiry or direct ridicule that makes for the most effective satire.

Read the rest of the article at The New York Times. (Images via the Palais de Tokyo and the B.N.F.)

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  1. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Saturday links | A Bit More Detail

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