Comic art and illustrations surround consumers on a daily basis, from Sunday comic strips to advertisements.
The newest exhibit at Wilkes University’s Sordoni Art Gallery, 141 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, opens Saturday, April 7, and shines a light on this genre with “Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art.”
The exhibit formed from the personal collection of Andrew J. Sordoni III, who began gathering illustrations and comic art in high school after buying his first Maxfield Parrish drawing. Although he traded that piece many years ago, Sordoni still has the first piece of comic art he bought, a “Prince Valiant” Sunday page.
“It’s actually in the exhibition,” he said. “It ran in the Sunday Independent in Wilkes-Barre. … It’s drawn by Hal Foster. I remember it very well.”
Sordoni’s interest in the genre stemmed from his love for fictional characters, ranging from cowboys and detectives to classic literary characters such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He assembled the collection over 50 years.
Stanley I. Grand, former Sordoni gallery director, curated the exhibit, which includes 135 works from more than 100 artists. The display includes notable illustrations from Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish and Frank Schoonover as well as comic strip artist from George Herriman, Milton Caniff and Charles M. Schulz, among many others.
“It’s lowbrow art,” Sordoni said of the genre. “It is not cerebral; it’s visceral. It reflects American popular culture. It’s the stuff that entertained us and that we lived with every day. On the illustration side of it, they are included in more than just magazine art or newspapers. It includes advertising art, calendar art, pinup art, glamor art and art that was commercialized, designed to sell products.”The gallery will host three Wednesday lectures during the exhibit’s run so illustration and comic lovers can delve deeper into the genre and the works on display. A curator’s tour with Grand takes place April 11, “What Makes a Pulp Different Than a Slick” with illustration historian David Saunders follows April 25, and “A Solitary Figure in American Illustration” with Sordoni rounds out the series May 2. All lectures take place at 4:30 p.m. in Room 135 of Karambelas Media Center. All Sordoni exhibits and events are free and open to the public.
“(The gallery) presents all kinds of art hoping to educate and inform and entertain the audience,” Sordoni said. “Some people will not like it, and some people will adore it. That’s true of all genres of art and various categories of art. This is just one more offering that gives some breadth to the university.”

If you go
What: “Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art”
When: Saturday, April 7, through Sunday, May 20; Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Sordoni Art Glalery, Karambelas Media Center at Wilkes University, 141 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: Visit wilkes.edu/arts/sordoni-art-gallery.

Special events
Opening reception: Saturday, April 7, 4:30 to 6 p.m., Sordoni Art Glalery, Karambelas Media Center at Wilkes University, 141 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Lecture series: Curator’s tour with Stanley I. Grand, Ph.D. Wednesday, April 11; “What Makes a Pulp Different than a Slick” with illustration historian David Saunders, Wednesday, April 25; and “A Solitary Figure in American Illustration” with Andrew Sordoni, Wednesday, May 2; all 4:30 p.m., Room 135, Karambelas Media Center, Wilkes University

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