The Common Gump
By David Sallinger
Gumpy is an artist's dream come true: a viewer who becomes one with the artwork.
Not everyone is as lucky as Gumpy, however. The little guy lives within the world he's observing, a two-dimensional character sometimes within the frame of reference, nearly always within the frame of the cartoon panel. But he can be 3-D, too. Such is art.
North Versailles Twp.'s Bill Mogush created Gumpy as a kind of common man (or should that be common Gump?) conduit into the world of paintings and sculpture.
Sometimes he'll be active, Mogush said of the Gumpy series: Sometimes he'll be passive, "a link between the public and the world of art."
"He's an observer of life," the artist explained. "He's a presenter of ideas," but "he's more or less non-judgmental."
Gumpy also is instructional, in an art-educational way. He not only provides a focus, a point of view, but he can provide a sense of scale. Of course, it's up to the viewer to determine how Gumpy is in the first place.
"I wanted a single, likable character that can be very easily identified," no matter where Gumpy might find himself within the gallery.
But Gumpy won't be alone in his world. Mogush has a cast of "quirkols," abstract characters that allow further exploration of imagination.
"The drawings will run the range of the world of art," some realistic, abstract or non-objective. Some will look like works you know, some will spring purely from Mogush's pen.
"It's not just a forum for my art," he pointed out. Works by others might find their ways into Gumpy's gallery. Maybe even something by Warhola/Mogush.
Mogush's first visit to The Daily News came through a story about him and partner Martin Warhola. If Warhola sounds a lot like Warhol, that's because Andy was Martin's uncle.
Warhola-Mogush followed Uncle Andy's lead to some degree, working in silk-screen, but they diverged from the pop art icon both by fracturing their screened images and by turning up the heat. Literally.
Back then, the duo would apply paint while the canvas was in flames, capturing the "creation/destruction" on film or video. One of their visuals featured music by former Daily News columnist Philip Harris, appropriately titled "Crash and Burn."
Because Warhola ran a scrap yard on the North Side, the duo would use crushers to mangle metal into various forms. In one case, they took a newspaper featuring Andy's face, placed it in shopping basket and mashed it. The resulting work took a shot at the merchandising of art. Most of Mogush's background is a little more traditional. He attended classes at Carnegie Museum as a youngster, which led to a degree from Carnegie Tech. The Westinghouse High School in Wilmerding grad came home to teach in the various schools that became East Allegheny.
Outside of academia, Mogush was art director at The Animators, doing animated TV commercials, in addition to freelance efforts.
Those various credits will inform "Gumpy's Art Gallery." Some of the entries will appear to be two-dimensional, some will seem sculptural, some even photographic.
"I'm trying to expand what people view as art." Some will be cartoonish, some sophisticated, some simple, some complex, some controversial. Because the cartoon panels will be black and white, they can be colored, allowing the reader to take up where Mogush left off. Each therefore will be different based on whoever does it.
His intention is to prevent the pieces from being too complex to color while keeping them "strong in design elements."
Some of the panels won't have defined edges, either. Mogush wants you to push past whatever limits you naturally put on what you see as art. Gumpy's world, in other words, invites you to define it. Or not. They're works in progress ("on both ends"), with readers invited to complete them -- if art ever is completed.
"I don't want it to look like typical drawings in a coloring book," structured in a way that leads to "destruction of creativity."
Art tends to foster collections, and Gumpy's panels can be clipped and kept as your personal gallery.
"When a person opens up the paper, he won't know what to expect: "What's in 'Gumpy's Art Gallery' today?'"
Down the road? Mogush is toying with the idea of Gumpy and toys. What better way to visit the Carnegie than with a Gumpy under your arm? It would be an opportunity to share the experience with the little guy who shares his gallery with you.
The Daily News, McKeesport, PA
Saturday, November 14, 1998