Graphis Master: Marshall Arisman

There are a thousand reasons to celebrate iconic artist and Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame initiate Marshall Arisman‘s darkly exquisite compositions. Arisman’s work is in permanent collections at the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Print Collection, the New -York Historical Society, the National Gallery of Art, The Guandong Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

His career has spanned from the late ’60s to the present day, as reflected in his retrospective from last year which included the pieces seen in this article. His 45-year career has seen many red letter moments that have come back into stark relevancy as of late. His first self-published collection was a wry satiric commentary on gun violence. The success of these works earned him a longstanding residency with The New York Times, still in its formative years, during which time he became the go-to man for a poignant and viscerally moving articulation of violence (with a specialty in war crimes and other particularly despicable acts.)

Arisman‘s style evokes a Salvador Dali-esque mastery of raw surreal abstraction co-mingled with macabre yet mystical realism; his grisly artistic signature could not be further at odds with the artist himself, however, who is mild-mannered to the point of tranquility. Favorite subjects jump from seemingly disjointed concepts — monkeys, guns, and Elvis feature heavily — yet somehow still achieve a sense of unity and visual harmony while making topical ruminations and contributions to socio-political discourse. The masterworks of Marshall Arisman make him not only an icon of the past and present, but also the kind of vital thought leader that is needed today perhaps more than ever before.

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I had a brief conversation with Marshall Arisman back in the '90s when he spoke at a conference I attended. I remember him being unusual and a bit dark — sort of like his illustrations.

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