NEW YORK —The Dead Rabbit, a tri-level mid-19th century style Irish/New York drinking saloon and two-time “World’s Best Bar” winner, today unveiled a portrait of its infamous “Rabbit” character that graces its comic-style menus. The character channels John Morrissey, the historical leader of the Dead Rabbits gang that lends the bar its name. The portrait, “Bradley’s Dead Rabbit,” was created by Terry Bradley, a legendary Belfast artist, and was unveiled at the bar’s fifth anniversary celebration on February 12, 2018.
It portrays the fearsome Rabbit character in front of an American flag with his signature glowing red eyes and a dangling cigarette. Sporting bandages, he appears fresh from a fight, bruised yet unbowed. Symbolic elements include skulls, blue and red roses, a shamrock, a red cross, a blue dove, a heart and the words “Hope,” “Honour,” “Trust” and “Justice.” The 17” x 24” mixed media piece marries oil and acrylic paints, charcoal, graphite, as well as colouring and drawing pens to create a haunting, multi-layered effect.
The portrait will hang behind the point station in the bar’s second floor Parlor, the most prominent spot in the entire venue. It marks the beginning of the Rabbit’s transformation from a cartoon character to one in real life.
“Everybody in Northern Ireland knows who Terry Bradley is,” says Sean Muldoon, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, The Dead Rabbit. “His art is iconic. I first saw it at a Belfast bar I was working at in 1998. Fast forward 20 years to today, we saw a perfect fit for him to reimagine the Rabbit character more realistically, yet moody and intense. With milestones like the bar’s upcoming expansion, our second book being published and our new Irish whiskey launching, it is a perfect way to salute 2018.”
“Our bar is all about attitude and edge and Terry’s art definitely takes it to a new level,” says Jack McGarry, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, The Dead Rabbit. “In his portrait, Terry’s made the Rabbit less cartoony, more flesh and blood, but still otherworldly and menacing. Terry hails from the same part of Belfast as Sean and I and we think a lot of his hallmark style is rooted in his upbringing, which we very much relate to.”
“My painting came about after rounds of discussions with Sean and Jack about their vision for the bar’s future,” says Bradley. “From there, I added my own thoughts to create a deep, disturbed character, a journeyman who has been there and done that, not someone to mess with. I want viewers to keep coming back to the image because they always find something new in it, maybe something they didn’t see before or something they interpret differently on different viewings.”
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