Saul Steinberg (b. 1914, Râmnicul Sarat, Romania; d. 1999, New York) 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.
32 East 57th Street, New York
September 11 - October 18, 2014
Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 10, 6 – 8 PM
New York—Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery are pleased to present Saul Steinberg: 100th Anniversary Exhibition in honor of the artist’s centennial. The exhibition will be on view on the second and ninth floors at 32 East 57th Street from September 11 through October 18 and was realized with the cooperation of the Saul Steinberg Foundation. To accompany the exhibition, Pace and Pace/MacGill will publish a catalogue featuring a new essay by Joel Smith, curator of photography at the Morgan Library and Museum and author of Steinberg’s first academic monograph. The public is invited to attend an opening reception on Wednesday, September 10, 6-8 PM.
Widely celebrated for his contributions to The New Yorker, Steinberg was a nimble artist who adapted to whatever medium fit his exploration of the world. The exhibition encompasses five decades of work and covers the breadth of his artistic practice. On the second floor gallery, Pace will exhibit a survey of the artist’s work in different media, while Pace/MacGill will dedicate its presentation on the ninth floor to a focused study of Steinberg’s photographic works in conversation with a selection of drawings. The exhibition will include more than eighty works, featuring some of Steinberg’s most iconic images as well as works that have never been publicly exhibited.
Steinberg’s varied output reflects the defiant curiosity and fiercely modernist attitude of an artist trying to make sense of the chaotic postwar period. An immigrant to the United States, Steinberg crafted his visual outlook to explore the radical upheaval of the world and examine American values. Unlike his peers who receded into pure abstraction, Steinberg pursued a pictorial agenda, projecting his anxieties and uncertainties outward, into both the world of fine art and the homes of Americans through popular magazines. His influences spanned Dada, Surrealism, Cubism and Pop, but Steinberg was never content to just produce works of aesthetic interest. Instead, he sought to confront the world, creating what he called puzzles that elicited critical contemplation, raising questions without providing answers.
His career attests to a sustained commitment to understand the world at a human scale. Steinberg described his images not as landscapes but “manmade situations,” marking each work with a measure of human invention or scale: people, cars, buildings, pyramids, even rubber stamps. In Untitled (Nine Postcard Landscapes with Figures) (c. 1970s), the artist depicts diminutive figures against landscapes with fabricated stamps standing in for the sun. He sidesteps any attempt at the sublime, presenting landscape imagery as a postcard cliché and a consequence of constant human reinvention. Harold Rosenberg wrote, “the matter of his art is artifice, the way people and things make themselves up, or are made up, to present themselves to the world.”
Although Steinberg produced photographs at various points in his career, his most prolific output occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Steinberg’s photographs—more aptly “hybrid photo-drawings” as Joel Smith wrote—function in two modes: photographs of surfaces on which he has drawn and manipulations atop printed photographs. His additions alter scale and perspective, transforming detritus into bustling urban landscapes and familiar scenes into uncanny grounds for drawing. These works dislocate any assumed objective representational authenticity of the photograph. “A photograph, for all the vaunted uniqueness of its medium, was…just one more piece of paper whose special qualities made it a Steinberg waiting to happen,” wrote Joel Smith.
Steinberg never conformed to a specific movement or art historical moment. He forced his viewers to critically confront not only the content of his images but how they were constructed. Driven by this vision, Steinberg never fit neatly within any historical category yet stands as a canonical figure. Harold Rosenberg wrote that Steinberg “made it impossible for art to acknowledge his legitimacy without changing its conception of itself.”
Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) was born in Râmnicul Sarat, Romania. He studied arts and letters at the University in Bucharest and later architecture in Milan before immigrating to the United States in 1942. Although based in New York for the remainder of his life, Steinberg traveled widely, spending part of World War II serving in China for the US and visiting parts of Africa and Europe. His work was widely circulated through prominent publications, most notably The New Yorker, during his lifetime and has been featured in landmark international group exhibitions since the 1940s, including the Venice Biennale (1993), Documenta (1977), and the US Expo at the World’s Fair in Brussels (1958). In 1967, Steinberg served as the first and only artist-in-residence at the Smithsonian.
Concurrent with Pace and Pace/MacGill’s exhibition, Saul Steinberg: Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of His Birth is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through October 12, which features works from a new, large gift of the artist’s work from the Saul Steinberg Foundation to the museum.
Many works in the exhibition have also been included in Steinberg’s one-artist exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including, The Americans, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2013); Saul Steinberg: The Adventures of the Line, Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro, which traveled to Associação Pinacoteca Arte e Cultura, São Paulo (2011); Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, Morgan Library and Museum, New York (2006-07), which traveled to numerous international venues including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris; Kunsthaus Zürich; and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg. Other one-person exhibitions include: A City on Paper: Saul Steinberg’s New York, Museum of the City of New York (2006-2007); Remembering: Saul Steinberg, The Menil Collection, Houston (1999); Saul Steinberg: About America, 1948-1995, 50 Works from the Collection of Fivia and Jeffrey Loria, Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, which traveled to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT (1996); Saul Steinberg, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1985); Saul Steinberg, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1978), which traveled to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Serpentine Gallery, London and Fondation Maeght, St. Paul de Vence; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (1968); Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC (1954); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1953); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1957, 1952).
Numerous international public collections hold Steinberg’s works, including the Art Institute of Chicago; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York; The Baltimore Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Musées National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
This is the artist’s ninth exhibition with Pace since joining the gallery in 1980.
2014. Pace Gallery. Paperback
84 pages: 58 color illustrations; 9 ⅝ x 9 ⅞ inches