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Science-Fiction Pulp Art At NBMAA

Outer-Space, Futuristic Adventures From Collection Of Robert Lesser And Others

By SUSAN DUNNE, sdunne@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

1:09 PM EDT, May 19, 2014

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One year ago, the New Britain Museum of American Art received a fun donation of 200 pulp-fiction illustrations from the '20s, '30s and '40s from New Yorker Robert Lesser, who had been collecting them since 1972. A few them have been hanging near the museum's coat racks since then.

Now more are on display, and the exhibit is a hoot. The Low Illustration Gallery at NBMAA is filled with about two dozen pulp illos focusing on science fiction. Lobster people battle a scantily clad man and woman. A human holds an alien at gunpoint. A Godzilla-like creature terrorizes the innocent. An astronaut is eaten alive by a huge flower. Cities fall into ruins as bystanders gasp. West Point cadets in the year 3,000 battle odd little creatures.

And, of course, Buck Rogers, one of Dick Calkins' original artworks of the 25th-century futuristic hero, from 1936.

The exhibit is dominated by Science Fiction Hall of Famer Frank R. Paul, who contributed "The Synthetic Man" from 1930, showing a green humanoid, "The Moon Era" from 1932, which shows a human using hilariously antiquated technology, smacking a robot with a stick; "Planet of the Knob Heads," from 1939, in which a negligee-wearing woman is abducted by a fat red robot; and other works.

Other artists are H.L. Parkhurst, Hubert Rogers, Malcolm Smith, Paul Stahr, Rudolph Belarski, Hannes Bok, Howard Brown, Virgil Finlay, L. Raymond Jones, Robert Gibson and Robert Fuqua. All artworks are exhibited with the magazine covers they were featured on.

The show opened, appropriately, on Star Wars Day. ("May the Fourth be with you!") It'll be up until early August.

NEW BRITAIN MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART is at 56 Lexington St. Details: www.nbmaa.org.