The Art Institute of Chicago always knows how to bring together artists in ways that are thoughtful and whimsical, inviting conversations across artistic styles, periods and mediums. Currently, there are two adjacent exhibits that bring together the work of Saul Steinberg and Cauleen Smith, and they are both delightful.
Image: Saul Steinberg. Downtown Building, 1952. Gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation.
For the uninitiated, Saul Steinberg was a Romanian-born artist who came to the United States to begin a prodigious career that included six decades of work for the New Yorker. He was a master of many artistic mediums, and the work brings together a rich cornucopia of his drawings, along with a host of his wonderful paper-bag assemblages.
One of my favorite pieces in this collection is his “Untitled (Rush Hour),” as it captures both the bustle of a big-city commute along with the frenetic nature of many people trying to move through finite spaces on their way to and from work and home. It’s worth your close consideration. When I visited, a number of people stopped to nod their heads as if to say, “Ah, yes. This is my struggle.”
There are a number of arresting works in the gallery. I’d also recommend a close look at his 1945 piece “Bombing, China.” Its suggestive chaos illuminates just one of the tragedies of armed conflict.
Image: Cauleen Smith, Wild Seed, from Human_3.0 Reading List, 2015. Promised gift of Helen and Sam Zell.
Moving on, visitors will find Gallery 124 close by and Cauleen Smith’s “Human 3.0 Reading List” exhibit. Smith’s work is informed by an interest in the seemingly endless "listicles" that populate the human condition in our own time.
This arresting series of 57 drawings brings together a section of books that is personal and that asks a series of challenging questions, including “Have you read these books?” and “What will they mean to you?”
Smith primarily works in film, and it is interesting to contemplate these seemingly static works as a set of values to be considered, and to enjoy their many particularities and wonderful details.
Both exhibits are open until October 29, 2017, and both are included in the general admission ticket to the Art Institute of Chicago (111 South Michigan Ave., Open daily 10:30–5:00, Thursday until 8:00).
Cover image: Saul Steinberg. B Movie, 1948. Gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation.