Figure 1. cover illustration, circa 1976*
Figures 3, 4, 5. Examples of Kliban's anti-climactic architectural monuments, or, "Non-uments." On a side note, his "Nixon Monument" looks strangely similar to a proposed George W. Bush monument.
Perhaps this is how humor is most easily achieved: by creating unexpectedly anti-climactic scenarios. Kliban was a master at this. After earning a living by making illustrations for Playboy in the 1960's, he went on to develop a series of images that, in a dystopian manner, full handedly mocked the images broadcast by "playboy". Via Wikipedia:
The books that followed Cat [Kliban's most popular work] consisted mostly of extremely bizarre cartoons that find their humor in their utter strangeness and unlikeliness. Many of these are cartoons that Kliban drew for Playboy. They often contained dysmorphic drawings of nude figures in extremely unlikely environments, as if to spoof Playboy's own subject matter. Another frequent subject of satire were the type of wordless, step-by-step visual instruction manuals typically found with such things as office furniture. Kliban also had a recurring series of drawings called "Sheer Poetry", in which the page would be split into six panels, containing images of objects whose names, when spoken in the order presented, would form a rhyming, nonsensical verse.
Kliban's satirical take on everything from life's most ordinary moments to the most spectacular events establishes a body of work which is both whimsical and inspired. What would happen if Kliban's illustrations were to be adopted as a set of instructions for the construction of a series of monuments to the his legacy? Would onlookers laugh? Or would they denounce the constructs as deviant appendages to the city? Let's be honest: the health and welfare of the public would certainly be at risk with many of Kliban's ideas.
Figures 6, 7. Radically experimental architecture juxtaposed within the ordinary city.
The ultimate question emerging in Kliban's architectural cartoons is this: will the legacy of radical architecture be confined to print media; remaining forever unbuilt? How does the experimental artist-architect (conjuring up visions of rubber towers, "world's largest" monuments, and wobbly clown aesthetics) make a living? Kliban did it by working for the institution, then mocking the institution. Perhaps such low-brow, critically un-acclaimed ideas only come into being through rebellious acts of deviance by otherwise respected professionals? An architecture of secretive and subversive conjectures.
*All images in this post have come from: Kliban, Bernard. Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head & Other Drawings. New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1976.