In an issue of The New Yorker, Ian Frazier remembered Saul Steinberg in a big way with a few words: “His child self never left him, nor did his love of elsewhere… In my mind, the remotest place, the horizon belongs to Saul.” Similarly to the point, Steinberg described himself to an interviewer as “a writer who draws.” Truly a world citizen, he was born in Romania, studied architecture in Italy, spent a year in the Dominican Republic awaiting a visa, and arrived in the US sponsored by The New Yorker, becoming intimate with that City’s every cranny, as well as our quirky national mindset.
The other American city of skyscrapers is the ideal location for Along the Lines: Selected Drawings by Saul Steinberg, currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, the largest school-museum campus in the country. One of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design, past students (and independent thinkers) range from Georgia O’Keefe and Thomas Hart Benton to David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. The adjoining museum and school, with a Beaux Arts structure built for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and the most recent addition, the Modern Wing, with its white aluminum “flying carpet” light filter, express the range of possibilities for students like Steinberg himself, who studied architecture in Milan, painted a 250-foot mural for the Brussels World’s Fair, drew countless cartoons and made paper masks for “protection against revelation.”
The buildings alone are worth the visit, and the works of Saul Steinberg, whose foundation describes him as, “constantly crossing boundaries into unchartered territory,” vividly represent the dynamic culture of this place of learning and discovery. The 54 drawings display how a masterful mind can prod, please and provoke with deft use of an inked line. —Gwynned Vitello
Along the Lines: Selected Drawings by Saul Steinberg is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through October 29, 2017.
This article was orignally published in the July 2017 print edition of Juxtapoz.