Object of the Month

Title: American Voter
Artist: Richard Mock (1944–2006)
Nationality: American
Date: 1996
Medium: linoleum cut

Perhaps best remembered for his political cartoons that appeared on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times from 1980 to 1996, Richard Mock made a name for himself by producing bold, comedic works that confronted challenging social and political issues in America.

In 1968, after earning his bachelor’s degree in lithography and block printing at the University of Michigan, Mock settled in New York City. Though also a sculptor and painter whose works were shown at 112 Greene Street and the Whitney, among others, Mock’s passion for politics facilitated his emergence as an editorial cartoonist. Mock used the linocut technique (a printmaking process similar to the woodcut) to create striking black-on-white satirical images reminiscent of the style of Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada and the bitter wit of German Expressionist Max Beckmann.

American Voter exemplifies the bold composition and caustic humor characteristically employed in Mock’s work. Here, Mock comments on the absurdity of the electoral process, presenting the American voter as simultaneously unaware and overwhelmed by information. The voter’s senses are both eliminated and exaggerated: he wears a blindfold, suggesting his political ignorance, but he is also screamed at through a cone by a monkey and pecked on the head by a bird, representing the overpowering influx of ultimately insignificant information presented in political campaigns. The image asserts the futility of the popular vote by showing the teary voter, crossing his fingers and closing his nose with a clothes pin, placing his ballot in a box covered in arrows pointing in all directions and so foul that it attracts a swarm of flies.

Claire Kissinger (WCAS 2016)