February 04, 2005
ABNER DEAN FASCINATES ME
As well as some other people. I'm reposting these examples as of now, along with some very interesting comments I got on the pre-crash Sovereign Liege a few months ago. You can read them in the extended entry section.
(Click the thumbnails for larger images.)
I wrote then that he deserved to be back in print, in editions that didn't mar his work by splitting many of the drawings across two pages.
That Abner Dean is so thoroughly forgotten
is just another sad fact of our disposable culture
life. What Am I Doing Here was the rage in
smart circles for several years after its appearance. Its popularity tracked the post war
popularity of psychoanalysis. The chances were
that anyone on the couch had a copy within reach.
I was born in 1940, was 7 when the book came out
and was snapped up by my Freudophile father. I
was thrilled to see a bunch of nekkid people running about, but the depth of the humor and insight was not lost on me even at that age. His work fascinated me. His horrific caricature of a lunch counter (the one with huge funnels stuck in the mouths of the customers) still haunts me. What might have he had done with McDonalds? Well,
he did it, that's what, then and there.
A few years ago I found a copy of It's A Long Way
To Heaven, the contents of which are as strong as
the selections in the more famous book. Philosophers' Convention takes the cake, as does
Amnesia, The Consultation, The Eternal Optimist,
many others. It's a priceless possession for me,
whatever its worth on the out of print market.
The idea of getting back to the original plates
and reissuing them in a format that showcases Dean's extraordinary greyscale talent is a fine one. There are many certified great American artists who couldn't shine the man's shoes. His
drawings are unique, often beautiful in a way that
competes with the satirical content and kicks the
complexity up several notches because of that competition.
I collect Abner Dean. I think I have the largest private collection of Dean's work. I Would love to see some things republished. Abner Dean's Naked People is a nice collection and can, with patience, be found for a few bucks with a signed limited (5000) edition litho,
[after an email exchange]
My experiences parallel those of John's fairly closely. I have a couple of originals and am always looking for more.
"what am i doing here? " and "its a long way to heaven" contain some of his best work. He was born Abner Epstein, attended Darmouth from about 29- 31 and published some works under Epstein before switching to Dean.
Good to connect. Dartmouth has a lot of dean stuff squirreled away in special collections somewhere. You can get some more info on dean in his obit in the N.Y. times.junesomething 1982, I think. Tell me about the dean you have. I have a lot of obscure dean/ epstein prints as well as a portrait and a drawing of an elephant and the egg toss from abner deans naked people.
oh yes, I absolutely agree. I was born in '42, and Mother snapped up "What Am I Doing Here" pretty quick when it came out when I was about 5 or so. I thought it was a cartoon book (well, it was, rofl) and pored over that thing like CRAZY quite a few times. I noticed as I got older that it made me think crazy things. Crazy but good.
Like the swooning Ophelias on the conveyer belt going over the cliff - middle sister was a swooning Ophelia type, so I got that one right away. And only Mother and I got the joke when I started calling middle sister 'Ophelia'. It was nice that no one else in the family liked the book. Father only read the sporting green, middle sister only read movie magazines, and brother only read sci fi.
So it was like Mother's and my little secret. She used to kid me just before serving dinner, "Have you set out the funnels?"
So bring on our Mr. Dean again !! There's a couple generations of folks out there who have NO IDEA what great art and philosophy can accomplish when combined !!! Get some Thurber out there again too. None of these modern people have the slightest idea of what a sense of humor is. Look at how "The Unicorn in the Garden" has faded into utter obscurity. Shame on all of them.
Nice to stumble upon this site! Abner Dean has always been something of a mystery to me. I've found several of his books over the years, (It's a Long Way To Heaven, What Am I Doing Here, And On the Eighth Day, Come As You Are, & Cave Drawings for the Future) all of them invariably marked down drastically and languishing on a shelf for what I can only assume is lack of interest. Silly people...
I've always been fascinated by his stuff, but have felt that his style sort of sits in a nexus between Steig (specifically 'About people' & 'The Lonely Ones'), Steinberg, and maybe Artzybasheff. Not knowing much about the man, I've then made the assumption by the timing of his books that he was following in the wake of those other artists, perhaps 'jumping on the bandwagon'. Though much of what he does is unique, I'd have to say many elements seem a bit derivative. Still, fascinating books to treasure!
Speaking of that crowd & those following in their wake, can anyone tell me anything about Jane Eakin? I've just found her book from '46, 'I Do All the Work Around Here', and again - - fascinating, a little derivative, and something of a puzzle...
I discovered Abner Dean some years ago. My parents had several of his books; Come as you are, long way to heavan, and on the eighth day and some others. Aparently my parents bought them when they came out. I recall looking at them from time to time as I was growing up and having no idea what they were about.
When I rediscovered them as an adult I was blown away. I also realized how many of those images had taken root in my consciousness at a deep level. "The wonder of you" was an image that I have always thought amusing and salient. "What am I doing here" is a question that pops up often in my own work.
I will add my own voice to those for whom Dean is a treasured possesion.