Eyes Wide Open: Saul Steinberg & Philip Guston, Prints, Drawings, Objects
Friends for more than two decades, both artists were deeply affected by the social and political turbulence in America in the mid-1960s and 70s, and social commentary, be it veiled or pointed, is prevalent in their work. The modernist theories that provided the underpinnings of abstract painting did not serve their immediate goals of depicting the human condition, and Guston notoriously abandoned its precepts around 1965 in favor of figuration. Each employed cartooning skills in service of their primary artistic aims, exemplified in Guston’s Poor Richard drawings of the early 1970s caricaturing Richard Nixon, and Steinberg’s satirical images of poseurs, figures in social isolation, and American materialism.
Working in collaboration with the The Saul Steinberg Foundation, the exhibition will include never-before-seen unique prints with handwork and collage, in addition to a selection of drawings, painted wood objects, and painted ‘masks’ by the artist. Steinberg, perhaps best known for his work in print in The New Yorker magazine, embraced the medium of drawing early in his career in the 1930s as a cartoonist for Milan-based humor newspapers. Fleeing Fascist Italy during the war, Steinberg arrived in New York in 1942. Imbued with satirical wit, the drawings, which often incorporate collage, reflected the artist’s keen fascination with the architecture and hurly-burly street life of his adopted city. His work of the 1950s, with its roots in humor and popular observation, set the stage for the succeeding generation of Pop artists.
Philip Guston, disenchanted with the making of the gestural Abstract Expressionist paintings that characterize his work of the late 1950s and 1960s, refocused the content of his painting to a highly original figurative style better adapted to his narrative intentions. Guston will be represented at the booth presentation by a selection of black and white figurative lithographs editioned at Gemini G.E.L. shortly before his death in 1980, as well as drawings from the late 1960s. These bold works are inhabited by the artist’s iconographic motifs including books, clocks, severed legs, clenched fists, and the hooded Klansman, a frequent protagonist that first appeared in his work in 1930. Like Steinberg’s masks, the hooded figure is emblematic of the protective disguises individuals, including the artist, use to hide behind as well as their obvious political symbolism.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated e-catalogue with an essay by Antonia Pocock, Ph.D. candidate in Art History at New York University Institute of Fine Arts. Senior & Shopmaker Gallery is the sole representative of Saul Steinberg’s editioned work from the The Saul Steinberg Foundation.