WASHINGTON, DC, February 17, 2010 - Matt Wuerker, editorial cartoonist for Politico, today was named the winner of the 2010 Herblock Prize.
The prize is awarded annually by The Herb Block Foundation for "distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous standard set by Herblock." Wuerker will receive the Prize April 15 at the Library of Congress. The winner receives a $15,000 after-tax cash prize and a sterling silver Tiffany trophy.
George Stevens Jr., the award winning film producer and director, will deliver the annual Herblock Lecture at the award ceremony. Stevens is currently producing a film on Herblock's life and his influence on his times. Previous speakers have been Ben Bradlee, Barack Obama, Sandra Day O'Connor, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert and Ted Koppel.
Judges for this year's prize were Pat Bagley, the winner of last year's Herblock Prize, Lucy Caswell, curator of the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and Harry Katz, curator of the Herb Block Foundation.
"Matt Wuerker can draw, boy can he draw. And Paint. And make you think. More than being examples of very fine and engaging art, Wuerker's cartoons always have and incisive narrative going on. They take you by the hand and tell the stories ripped from today's headlines," Bagley said. "If Heironymous Bosch had grown up on Mad Magazine, he couldn't have done a better job illustrating politics and politicians run amok than Wuerker."
Caswell said that "Wuerker understands one of his most important missions is to prod people to think about complicated issues. The fact that he can do it with such artwork is a winning combination."
Katz noted that Wuerker's cartoons go to "an online audience which appreciate his artistry and insight, the beauty that lies in the details: watercolors, old-fashioned cross-hatching, and satirical signs, labels and other visual devices to flesh out the message. He's doing something new in an old style; engaging, entertaining, educating and leading us surely to his way of thinking." Politico is produced both in print and online.
The Foundation opened the prize contest to animated cartoon entries for the first time this year and the judges said they were impressed with the quality of the entries. The same criteria are used in judging both the traditional and the animated cartoons.
"They show us what's possible. I think it's exciting," said Caswell.
John Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico, described Wuerker's cartoons as reader friendly. "He is not an enemy to his subjects. His pen pokes and prods but rarely lacerates its targets," Harris said. As an example, Harris singled out a cartoon showing a ship with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke on the bridge proclaiming "Recession's Over!" with Wall Street executives sunning themselves on the top deck while middle-class and working-class passengers remain deep underwater on the below decks.
Prior to joining Politico as a political cartoonist and illustrator three years ago, Wuerker had a very successful career as a freelance cartoonist. After graduating from Lewis and Clark College in 1979 his first political cartoons were published in Willamette Week, the alternative newspaper in Portland, Ore. His self-syndicated cartoons have appeared in newspapers such as the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor and magazines such as the Nation and Sojourner.
And when he wasn't drawing cartoons he taught classes in cartooning ranging from UCLA and the California State Men's Penitentiary to the Corcoran School of Art.
"I like the usefulness of good political cartoons and imagery, Wuerker said. "There's something very satisfying about contributing to the ongoing political conversation and there's also something very satisfying when you succeed in making people laugh. Some visual metaphors are just plain serious, but the ones I like best are the ones that combine a certain gravitas with a playfulness that gets people to smile."