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Fin De Siglo: End of Century Cartoons
posted December 28, 2005

Creators: Arturo Kemchs
Publishing Information:
Ordering Numbers: 9709131702 (ISBN)

I received this one in the mail without a single letter of explanation. Thank you... I think. Fin De Siglo is a well-designed, oversized book of mediocre to good editorial cartoon work by cartoonist Arturo Kemchs. I'm not very familiar with editorial cartoonists and their traditions in this country let alone Central and South America, so I can't make any grand pronouncements about this artist or his context. Read in the cold light of my own ignorance, I wound up conflicted.

The drawings themselves are often very nicely drawn, particularly in that they're done in several styles. I prefer the line drawings, which Kemchs seems to reserve for cartoons featuring people and flat-out caricature, to his crosshatched or solid black cartoons. Those drawings are the most expressive in the volume, and contain the subtler jokes: the bicycle that takes the place of Castro's eyeglasses, the American coin and flag that clothe a drawing of the Pope. Kemchs also effectively uses one graphic trick, making an image out of smaller images -- say, a generalissimo's face made up entirely of skulls.

I was disappointed, however, by the ideas expressed in the cartoons, which don't match the flair with which they're drawn. In Kemchs view, America is a militaristic bully, Disney and Coca-Cola are rampaging corporations, and the U.N. symbol is either the best hope or the world's great disappointment. These are all very cogent views, I'm sure, particularly for someone writing from Kemchs viewpoint, but these drawings don't communicate anything that shocks or educates me. And I'm ignorant.

Still, it's one nice-looking package (there's some nice support material, mostly in Spanish and English), and any active fan of editorial cartooning could do much worse than spending a day looking at Kemchs' art.

This review was written in the late 1990s as part of a then-ongoing freelance gig; I apologize if it reads oddly or seems incomplete.