Friday, December 1, 2017

Courtroom Sketch Bonanza at John Jay College

By Jeffrey M Levine

Vincent “The Fish” Cafaro, artist Richard Tomlinson

This is a message to Urban Sketchers and those interested in the underbelly of New York City history:  RUN DON’T WALK to the exhibit currently at the Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery at John Jay College of Criminal Justice until February 2, 2018.  The show is entitled Rogues Gallery: Forty Year Retrospective of Courtroom Art from Son of Sam to El Chapo.  For sketch enthusiasts and tabloid fans, this is a bonanza of faces and techniques executed on the spot in courtrooms where cameras are prohibited.

Son of Sam trial, artist Aggie Whelan Kenny

There are 78 large-scale sketches by three professional courtroom artists: Richard Tomlinson, Aggie Whelan Kenney, and Elizabeth Williams.  The amazing skill of these artists, and expressiveness of the sketches is totally enjoyable to see up close and learn from.  Techniques include watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, pastel, charcoal, and markers.  There is a free catalog with bios of the artists and background info on each sensational trial sketched.

Dominique Strauss Kahn, artist Elizabeth Williams

The people on trial include a true rogue’s gallery of New Yorkers involved in all sorts of mayhem including murder, fraud, terrorism, assault, extortion, and white collar crime.  They include Son of Sam David Berkowitz, Robert Chambers, John Gotti, Bernie Madoff, Martha Stuart, Mark David Chapman, Leona Helmsley, and others.  Witnesses in the courtroom include Michael Bloomberg, Mick Jagger, Woody Allen, Ed Koch, Donald Trump, and Al Sharpton.

Various Mafiosi, artist Aggie Whelan Kenny
 The sketches brought back memories of a City that once was.  A typical example is the trial of Bernhard Goetz, who shot four black teenagers with an unlicensed handgun in the subway.  It was December 1984 – the year I moved from Orange, New Jersey into my brownstone walk-up on West 90th street.

Sean Bell trial, artist Elizabeth Williams

Rogues Gallery runs until February 2, 2018 and is free.  The gallery is located on 524 West 59th Street near 11th Avenue, and is open to the public Monday – Friday, 1-5 PM.  Sketchers, don’t miss this one!  

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