By Claire Bishop, Ph.D. Program in Art History, CUNY Graduate Center
Dan Perjovschi has been making lightning-fast, razor-sharp drawings since the early 1990s, in tandem with his ongoing work as a political cartoonist producing weekly drawings for Rivista 22 in Bucharest (named after the day Nicolai Ceasescu fled parliament by helicopter, on 22 December 1989). Born in 1961, Perjovschi has the distinctively ironic tone that stems from the dual perspective of having lived under the dictatorship and now under free-market neoliberalism. (When I first met him in 2003 he described himself as a ‘dizzydent’, since there was no longer a clearly identifiable enemy to oppose, as had been the case under communism.)
Perjovschi tends to work site-specifically, spending time in a given location and filling his notebook with sketches that range from global current affairs to the minutiae of local habits concerning food, transport and cell phone behaviour. Eventually these sketches are finessed and whittled down to a selection of apparently effortless cartoons that he transfers to a wall or window, working at high speed with a thick black sharpie or stick of chalk. Sometimes the drawings are circulated via free newspapers, the pages covered in drawings and pithy observations. Funny, poignant, and sometimes even painful, his drawings are sometimes mistaken for graffiti, but go far beyond the aspirations of street art in their level of commentary, making visual and verbal connections between ideological phenomena that hitherto seemed unrelated.
Perjovschi’s ability to distil current affairs and geopolitical positions into easily recognizable drawings has made him a favourite on the global biennial circuit. At the Graduate Center on 16 November, he made a selection of his best-known drawings relating to globalization, interspersed with some topical puns and slogans about the Pope and Pussy Riot. He was adamant that I not remove any of the existing posters on the wall, adapted his intervention to the clock (‘this is now’), and promises to send us more material to add to the wall in due course. The work should remain up for no more than two years, or however long it takes until the Graduate Center decides to repaint the room, whichever is the shorter.