Considering how much the practice of politics—and journalism—has changed over the years, the art of political cartooning has been surprisingly resilient. In the sprawling and occasionally inspired “Donkeys & Elephants,” Studio Gallery aims to document the art form’s evolution over the years. The show includes mini-collections of original art by the late Washington Post cartoonist Herblock, notably his classic, saggy-faced Richard Nixon, and by Kevin (KAL) Kallaugher of the Economist and the Baltimore Sun. (Disclosure: Through my job in the media, I know KAL and a few other cartoonists in the show.) Compared to these old pros, the selection of works from Cagle Cartoons, a syndicate with many contributors, is much more uneven, with many examples that are too heavy-handed to be effective. A few individual cartoons do stand out: a tessellated, Zen-like rendering of a donkey and elephant by Joel Pett, and Randall Enos’ distinctive, linocut-style images. But only one—in which a crazed elephant shouts to a jaded Alice, White Rabbit, and Mad Hatter, “I’ll show you a real mad tea party!”—is laugh-out-loud clever. With a pitch-perfect take on John Tenniel’s original Alice illustrations, this one has the good manners to hat-tip its historical forebears.
The exhibit is on view Wednesdays–Fridays 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. to Jan. 26 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. Free. (202) 232-8734. studiogallerydc.com.