Saul Steinberg

11 Jan - 09 Feb 2008

© Installation View
"Tables and Other Sculpture"

New York, December 17, 2007—PaceWildenstein, in conjunction with The Saul Steinberg Foundation, is pleased to present Saul Steinberg: Tables and Other Sculpture, the first exhibition devoted exclusively to Steinberg’s wood assemblages from the 1970s and 1980s, at 32 East 57th Street, New York City, from January 11 through February 9, 2008. Saul Steinberg: Tables and Other Sculpture features the artist’s rarely exhibited mixed-media “Table” constructions as well as wall reliefs. This is theeighth exhibition devoted to the artist’s work at PaceWildenstein.

By the early 1960s, Steinberg had decided to pare down his wide-ranging endeavors—book and magazine features, stage sets, fabric designs, and holiday cards, among others—and concentrate on his work for The New Yorker and on art for gallery and museum exhibitions. Within a decade, he had begun sculpting or, by his own account, “whittling,” facsimiles of the ordinary objects in his studio—pen and pencils, paint brushes, sketchbooks, a pocket calendar, even his own painter’s palette—at a 1:1 scale. Many of these trompe-l’oeil objects were then incorporated into his first “drawing tables”—three-dimensional renderings of the draftsman’s life in art, filled with his drawing tools, sketchbooks, and replications of works completed or in progress. The sculptural assemblages range from Bonbon Fazul (Table Series) (1971) and The Pyramid Table (1974) to later examples, including interiors such as the Art Deco bedroom at Hotel Metropole (1987) and U.S. Post Office (1984), Steinberg’s wry take on public architecture. The massive, oppressively official structure in the latter rises up from a drawing Steinberg made in 1977 entitled Federal Bldg., Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1981, another drawing renamed the same structure US Post Office, Cincinnati.

Two of the works on view in Saul Steinberg: Tables and Other Sculpture are a reminder of the artist’s lifelong passion for 19th-century literary figures, especially Flaubert, Stendahl, Tolstoy, and Nikolai Gogol, whose short story “The Nose” was Steinberg’s inspiration forGogol’sNose and Nose IV, both from 1980. Steinberg’s works offer imaginative variations on Gogol’s character Kovalyov, whose nose leaves his face and takes on an independent life.

Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, a comprehensive survey exhibition featuring over 100 works of art, is on view concurrently at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, through February 24, 2008. Organized by Joel Smith, Saul Steinberg: Illuminations opened its four-venue US tour at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City in early December 2006 before traveling to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and the Cincinnati Art Museum. In May 2008, the show will begin its European tour at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, before moving on the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. The show is accompanied by a catalogue of the same name, the first art historical treatment of Steinberg’s career, written by Joel Smith and published by Yale University Press.

Saul Steinberg (b. 1914, Râmnicul Sarat, Romania – d. 1999, New York, NY) studied philosophy and letters at the University in Bucharest before moving to Italy in 1933 to enroll as an architecture student at the Politecnico in Milan. Although he received his degree in 1940, the anti-Jewish racial laws in Fascist Italy proscribed him from practicing his profession. He fled Italy in 1941, waited a year in Santo Domingo for a US visa, and finally arrived in New York in 1942. Commissioned as an ensign in the US Navy, he spent World War II in China, North Africa, and Italy. He settled in New York after the war, but became an inveterate traveler. His journeys through the United States, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and India gave him a broad and acute perspective on the culture and mores of 20th-century life. Steinberg’s art became an exploration of social and political systems, language, and art itself.

Saul Steinberg’s work has been the subject of more than 110 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide since his first solo show in 1943. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted the first large-scale traveling retrospective of Steinberg’s work, featuring nearly 200 pieces, in 1978. The exhibition’s other venues included the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Serpentine Gallery, London; and Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence. IVAM, the Institute for Modern Art, Valencia, Spain, held a major exhibition in 2002. Other major museum exhibitions include: the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1953); Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover (1954); Musée d’Art Moderne, Brussels (1967); National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (1973); Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (1974); Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (1986); Kunsthalle, Nuremberg (1988); The Menil Collection, Houston (1999).

Saul Steinberg’s work can be found in many public collections, including: The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Musée d’Art Moderne, Brussels; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

Tags: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Saul Steinberg