Adam Baumgold Gallery presents an exhibition of 40 works by Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) from the 1950s to the 1980s, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth. The exhibition will include drawings, works on paper and mixed media constructions by one of the 20th century's most enigmatic and inventive artists.
Featured in the exhibition will be several emblematic works from Steinberg's retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1978, and from Steinberg Illuminations, at the Morgan Library & Museum in 2006. The drawing Dancing Couple, 1965, depicts a precisely rendered man dancing with a stick figured, comic woman. The autobiographical drawing, Album, 1953 and 1968, replete with emblematic Steinberg imagery—a “fake” letter, photo and passport—was the cover of the Whitney Museum retrospective catalog.
The exhibition will include many early drawings from the 1950s and 1960s that were reproduced in the Steinberg books All in Line, The Art of Living, The Passport, The Labyrinth, The New World, Le Masque, and The Inspector, as well as The New Yorker. The early, masterful drawing Drugstore, 1946 that was reproduced in Steinberg’s book The Art of Living depicts old New York, with a crowded luncheonette counter and a pharmacy teeming with activity in a dazzling perspectival display.
Also included in the exhibition is the drawing Allegory, 1963 that was exhibited in the Whitney and Morgan retrospectives, where “virtually every detail invites one-to-one symbolic translation and gendering a sense of familiarity that feels like understanding. A stork is birth; a skeleton death; Uncle Sam climbing Jacob’s ladder is some kind of progress. Art finds her ideal subject in the mirror, while Reason (a Pythagorean diagram) is caressed by voluptuous Beauty…” (Joel Smith, “Saul Steinberg Illuminations,” p. 156.) Any connection among the symbols of Allegory becomes illusory. Steinberg said of his art, “what I am playing with is the voyage between perception and understanding.” (Joel Smith, “Saul Steinberg Illuminations,” p. 156)
Double Still Life, 1981, the cover drawing for Steinberg’s exhibition Still Life and Architecture, is a seemingly straightforward still life drawing with some of the artist’s prized objects: a Delft vase, toy tin alligator, Japanese postcard, a studio clock, etc. Tacked to the wall is a drawing within this drawing containing a complex visual puzzle of interwoven symbols—pen and inkwell, decanter, loaf of bread with knife and a burning candle.
Several of Steinberg’s colored postcard landscapes will be exhibited: Art and Artist, 1996, Mombasa, 1969, and Four Sunsets, 1971, as well as the “fake” document drawings Diploma, 1950, and Document, c.1959, filled with artist-made rubber stamps and seals, and imaginary calligraphy.