Characters from "South Park" appear in a political-fueled art exhibit in Dover.
Famous characters such as Mr. Peanut, George Washington and Chef from TV’s “South Park” have made their way into an art exhibit at the Biggs Museum of American Art ending Sunday.
“Icon Chains,” by painter Clark Fox, features 150 pieces. Many are fueled by political undertones contrasted to a friendly pop-art style.
Despite the bright and colorful presentation, it subliminally addresses themes such as racism and capitalism through a chain of iconic characters from the 18th century to present day.
Mr. Peanut, capitalist
“Mr. Peanut to Clark is the symbol of capitalism in all of its negative aspects,” said Biggs curator Ryan Grover.
Clark decided to use Mr. Peanut as a mascot because of the character’s origin story. Also, he enjoyed the bit-sized treats growing up in Hawaii.
“They were trying to sell peanuts to rich people, because peanuts were considered like poor people’s food” and “[slaves] got to eat peanuts,” said Clark, of New York City. “So they created this guy who’s real slick.
“He’s got the top hat, the monocle, the white gloves, the cane and he wears spats to sell their product. And it was supposed to be re-branded as cocktail peanuts to go with your cosmos or your martinis.”
‘South Park’ artwork
In 2011, Clark was commissioned to create artwork for the 15th anniversary of “South Park,” an animated TV show with adult humor that features a piece of poop (Mr. Hanky) as a character.
The creators of the TV the show sent Clark a stack of materials to familiarize him with their characters and told him to “go wild,” he said.
Clark did just that. He created a scenario where Mr. Peanut was trying to sell peanuts to the show’s black characters, including Mr. Hanky. The painting, “South Park Mr. Peanuts,” is in “Icon Chains.”
“When the guys from ‘South Park’ looked at my work, they found it shocking,” Clark said with a smile.
‘Open your mind’
George Washington often pops up in “Icon Chains,” coupled with presidents John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.
“With a lot of Clark’s portraits of presidents, he’s asking you to open your mind to a more fuller interpretation of their legacy,” Grover said. “George Washington’s the father of our nation. At the same time, he was a major slave owner.”
Clark, 70, got inspired to create political artwork when he moved back to America in 1952.
“I grew up in Honolulu. When I came back to the United States, I couldn’t believe black people had to go to bathrooms in outhouses next to gas stations,” said Clark, who’s Native American. “Most of my friends are Afro American and Native American.
“I’m trying to get people to look into what Dr. Martin Luther King was trying to do and get rid of apartheid in this country, which I think they still haven’t done.”
Grover describes “Icon Chains” as an icebreaker.
“Clark’s work starts a dialogue, a political one. But I think it’s up to the viewer to bring their own political views to the discussion,” Grover said. “The exhibition isn’t designed to make up your mind one way or another. It’s just a place where you can come and talk about talk these things.”