Synopses & Reviews
Best known for his barbed and brilliant art for The New Yorker
, Saul Steinberg (19141999) 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 Steinbergs 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 Steinbergs 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 artists 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 Steinbergs 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 artists papers illustrate the essay, career chronology, and entries for 120 objects featured in this important book.
and#8220;This thought-provoking book, like the photographs it features, invites multiple readings . . . Smith writes with poetic precision.and#8221;and#8212;Publishers Weekly
A visually striking meditation on buildings and photographs as embodiments of social memory
Buildings inhabit and symbolize time, giving form to history and making public space an index of the past. Photographs are made of time; they are literally projections of past states of their subjects. This visually striking meditation on architecture in photography explores the intersection between these two ways of embodying the past. Photographs of buildings, Joel Smith argues, are simultaneously the agents, vehicles, and cargo of social memory.and#160;
In The Life and Death of Buildingsand#160; photographers as canonical as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Laura Gilpin, Lewis W. Hine, and William Henry Fox Talbotand#160;enter into visual dialogue withand#160;amateurs, architects, propagandists, and insurance adjusters. Rather than examine photographers' aims in isolation, Smith considers how their images reflect and inflect the passage of time. Much as a building's shifting function and circumstances substantially alter its significance, a photograph comes to be coauthored by history, growing layers of meaning to which its maker had no access.
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.