Image via Jinwoo Chong for Untapped Cities
When we moved to our current Untapped Cities offices this summer, we noticed some unusual decorations in the lobby. These drawings, composing a little gallery of one-off cartoons and a collection of The New Yorker and Story magazine covers, were not just decorations, as they were. Their unique style actually is that of R.O. Blechman, a cartoonist and animator, whose work was placed in our Lincoln Center-area office building lobby at 157 Columbus Avenue by Landmark West, a preservationist group dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Upper West Side.
Blechman, whose most prominent work can be seen on the cover of numerous New Yorkers in the 1970s, gained attention when he published a hardcover version of the 19th century French story ‘Le Jongleur de Notre Dame.’ Afterwards, he penned editorial cartoons for The Village Voice and illustrations for Harper’s Bazaar, Trump, Esquire, Punch, and others. In 2003, the Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of his quirky artistry, dubbed “R. O. Blechman and The Ink Tank: A Celebration.”
In 1954, he was hired as a story-board artist for an animation studio. He remarked on his multi-genre track record on a plaque near his work on the wall: “a career that blessedly combined my three interests: writing drawing, and film. And so they remain as I roller coast through a free-lance life.”
In a plaque next to the collection of STORY covers, he describes how he offered to do an original cover for the same amount the magazine requested for a reprint. He states “This was one of the best professional decisions I ever made (in a career pockmarked by too many awful decision–but don’t ask). It allowed me to do some of the best work of my career. Sometimes it pays to look at the job and forget the wallet.”
If checking out this free, hidden exhibit at 157 Columbus Avenue, also discover the restaurants of the Upper West Side. Next, check out NYC’s Gilded Age architecture in lively illustration form and iGet in touch with the author @jinwoochong.