Saul Steinberg: Illuminations

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9780300115864: Saul Steinberg: Illuminations

Best known for his barbed and brilliant art for The New Yorker, Saul Steinberg (1914 1999) did much more. He executed public murals, designed fabrics and stage sets, was an inventive collagist and printmaker, and turned his magic touch to the fields of painting, sculpture, advertising, and even wartime propaganda. This is the first comprehensive look at Steinberg’s extraordinary contribution to 20th-century art, which was that of a modern-day illuminator, putting word and image in play to create art that spoke to the eyes, and minds, of readers.
An introduction by poet Charles Simic tracks the origins of Steinberg’s darkly comic sensibility in the Balkan bazaar” of his native Romania. Joel Smith shows how architectural training and an early rise to fame as a cartoonist in Fascist-era Milan honed the artist’s gift for subtle graphic invention, and explores why one of the most visible, prolific, potent, and cosmopolitan careers in postwar American art has so thoroughly evaded serious study. Tracing the evolving motives that underlie Steinberg’s multi-layered activity, this handsome volume also raises fundamental questions about the historiography of modernism and the vexed status of the middlebrow avant-garde” in an age of museum-bound art.
Previously unseen sketches, documents, and printed matter from the artist’s papers illustrate the essay, career chronology, and entries for 120 objects featured in this important book.

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About the Author:

Joel Smith is curator of photography at the Princeton University Art Museum and author of Steinberg at The New Yorker. Charles Simic is professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

From Booklist:

Saul Steinberg (1914-99) described himself as a "writer who draws," thus inspiring curator Smith to characterize Steinberg's brilliantly satiric drawings as "illuminations," thus linking his work to illuminated manuscripts and, given Steinberg's love of literature, to a particular favorite, Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations. Smith also explores Steinberg's mission to illuminate the overlooked and the absurd. In the biographical sections of his beautifully crafted critique, Smith affectingly recounts Steinberg's life as a Jew in anti-Semitic Romania and an architecture student in Fascist Milan whose distinctive cartoons served as his ticket out of Nazi Europe and onto the pages of the New Yorker. Both Smith and renowned poet Charles Simic associate Steinberg's fascination with documents with his harrowing refugee experiences, while Simic, a fellow immigrant from the Balkans and a friend of Steinberg's, offers striking insights into the artist's comic sensibility. Both commentators reflect on the great change in Steinberg's work after 1960, as his images turned hallucinatory and nightmarish, his protest against tyranny more intense. As instantly recognizable as Steinberg's kinetic, punning, and slyly skewering art is, there hasn't been a comprehensive Steinberg book in years, making this outstanding volume invaluable in its reclamation of Steinberg's agile, philosophic, and category-defying art. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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