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Greater Capital Region Teacher Center
Ben Katchor

November 14, 2000

8:00 p.m.
Recital Hall, PAC

4:00 Informal Seminar, HU 354
UAlbany, Uptown Campus
The Jew of New York

Beauty Supply District

Cult cartoonist Ben Katchor is creator of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer and The Jew of New York. The New York Times calls Ben Katchor, "the most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip." In recognition of his innovative use of the cartoon medium, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gave Katchor one of its prestigious fellowships (colloquially know as "MacArthur Genius Grants").

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer has appeared in newspapers and magazines since 1988. Knipl, the main character, is a man in love with the physical landscape of New York City, particularly its buildings and its signs. Both Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, and another strip, The Cardboard Valise, appear in The Forward and other newspapers. Knipl material has also been published in two book-sized collections, Julius Knipl, Stories (1999) and Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District (2000, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-375-40105-9). Another book, The Jew of New York (1999) tells the story of an attempt to found a Jewish homeland in New York State in the 1830s.

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In bestowing its fellowship, the MacArthur Foundation said, "Katchor has distilled through the medium of the comic strip an art rich with history, sociology, fiction and poetry. His meditations on urban life represent a sustained effort to re imagine the history of New York, recalling the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century city of words, with its hundreds of placards and signs, inscriptions and sandwich boards, lost places of entertainment and instruction, and forgotten forms of craft and industry."

Ben Katchor was recently the subject of a documentary, Pleasures of Urban Decay, which was screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Also recently, Katchor collaborated with the musical ensemble Bang on a Can to provide the story and hand-drawn sets for the revolutionary new opera The Carbon Copy Building, the tale of two buildings, one chic, and the other down and out. He lives, of course, in New York City.


"Mr. Katchor should take comfort and a great deal of pride in knowing that he has created the most original comic strip since George Herriman introduced 'Krazy Kat' more than 80 years ago." - New York Times Book Review

"Katchor is a comic-strip artist--one of the best--whose striking ink-and-wash panels make you wax nostalgic for a place you'd never want to live in." - The New Yorker

"He has written a funny, touching and compassionate ode to the city and the anonymous people who live there." - New York Times

"History, fantasy and Jewish mysticism ferment in this comic social atmosphere, related with Katchor's wry humor, deadpan equilibrium and poetic verisimilitude. His black and white drawings are brisk and expressive but also quite precise, and they work in combination with the text to produce a singularly captivating fictional portrait." - Publishers Weekly

Join Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, on a leisurely stroll past The Institute for Soup-Nut Research and The Municipal Birthmark Registry. Savor the smell of a phone booth, circa 1961. Sign up for a guided tour of the oldest continually vacant storefront in America. Attend a championship grave-digging competition, or, should you feel you've wasted yet another day, you can check in for help at a local Misspent Youth Center.
     In "The Beauty Supply District," a new twenty-four page story, Knipl attends an evening concert and unwittingly enters the world of whole-sale empathizers and chiaroscuro brokers who make the decisions critical to the production of aesthetic pleasure in all its forms--from the shape of an olive jar to the score of a strong quartet.

Writers Online Magazine Article
Pantheon Books
Greater Capital Region Teacher Center