Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Vincent Trasov | Mr. Peanut Drawings

Vincent Trasov
Mr. Peanut Drawings
Los Angeles, USA: Vancouver, Canada: New Documents, 2017
168 pp., 19 × 26.5 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

The Planters Peanuts mascot Mr. Peanut celebrated it's 100th birthday last year. It was created when a high school student named Antonio Gentile submitted sketches to a contest to design a trademark for the company (see below). His portraits featured a friendly, anthropomorphized peanut serving nuts and walking with a cane (a commercial artist later added a top hat and monocle). Gentile was paid $5 for creating a character that is considered one of the best-known icons in advertising history*. Mr. Peanut has appeared on virtually ever Planters package and advertisement since. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution "commending Mr. Peanut."

Vancouver artist Vincent Trasov adopted the persona in 1970: "I was doing animation drawings of Mr. Peanut tap dancing for a film [and] the process was far too tedious. I decided if I made a costume out of papier-maché I could get into the costume and tap dance. Once in the costume people started calling me Mr. Peanut. The name stuck. I assumed the identity of Mr. Peanut in exploring anthropomorphism, identity and contemporary mythology."

Following the original animated film (and a flip-book that preceded it), Trasov's Mr. Peanut began making local appearances, and he eventually performed the character in Toronto, Victoria, Halifax, New York and Los Angeles. In 1972 he appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue of General Idea's FILE megazine.

In 1974 Trasov ran for the mayor of Vancouver, in character as Mr. Peanut, picking up the endorsement of author William S. Burroughs (who was visiting Vancouver at the time):

"I would like to take this opportunity to endorse the candidacy of Mr. Peanut for mayor of Vancouver. Mr. Peanut is running on the art platform, and art is the creation of illusion. Since the inexorable logic of reality has created nothing but insolvable problems, it is now time for illusion to take over. And there can only be one illogical candidate-Mr. Peanut. "

In what remains one of the best-remembered Performance Art events in the country, Trasov went on to win 2,685 votes, which amounted to 3.4% of the total. In 1999, The Vancouver Sun selected Trasov as one of the top 100 British Columbians for his performance as Mr. Peanut. The original paper mâché costume is now housed in the collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

"I continue doing ink and wash drawings of Mr. Peanut as a monument, totem pole, in adventures in daily life, in romance, raising a family, etc." said Trasov in an interview with Here Elsewhere in 2012.

On April 26th, New Documents will host the Vancouver launch of a new artists' book by Trasov, which collects almost a hundred of these drawings and also includes a text by Nancy Tousley. Trasov and Jeff Khonsary (the New Documents Director and editor of the volume) will host a celebration at the Franc Gallery at 7pm.

The book - available in advance of the launch from Printed Matter and the New Documents website, sells for $40. A special edition titled Mr. Peanut Signing Edition is available for $100. It also includes a 21 × 30.5 cm signed and numbered Risograph Print.

For more information, visit the New Documents site, here.

*Graphic design student Carolyn Davidson was reportedly paid $35 for the even more iconic Nike Swoosh design in 1971.

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