Charles Addams New York
March 4 – June 6, 2010
This exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York reveals the breadth of the artist's comic vision, which went far beyond the hilarious family of ghouls that bear his name and for whom he may be best known. The more than 80 drawings, cartoons, sketches, watercolors, and pencil sketches-published and unpublished, black and white and in color, as well as examples of the artist's personal ephemera, demonstrate the inspiration Addams derived from New York City as well as his singular approach to the City's visual and imaginative possibilities. One of the leading humorists of the 20th century, Addams portrayed New York as a comic underworld populated with characteristic New Yorkers who interacted with monsters, creepy creatures, offbeat people, and other hapless inhabitants, all depicted in unusual situations. A highlight of the exhibition is a section on the particularly ghoulish characters later dubbed “The Addams Family,” who moved through his pseudo-city in mischievous and deliciously deviant ways.
“We take special pride in exhibiting the work of Charles Addams,” commented Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York.
“This Museum mounted the artist's first solo exhibition in 1956, and in the early sixties Addams donated 72 original drawings-finished cartoons and preliminary sketches-to the Museum's collections.”
His work is characterized by the juxtaposition of the real and the surreal: the torch of the Statue of Liberty rising above the flood waters beside Noah's ark; a leafy green “city as topiary shrub”; a tiny 19th century walk-up becoming a dollhouse when dwarfed by 20th century towers; a giant hand protruding from a subway entrance, one finger beckoning a startled pedestrian to enter. The artist's city-dwellers are also simultaneously ordinary yet surreal: an “invisible man” nestles on the subway between other passengers who are aware of his presence because he is reading a newspaper; a man walks a dog whose face exactly is reading a newspaper; a man walks a dog whose face exactly matches his own; a visitor to the Hayden Planetarium transforms into a demon and back again as the moon waxes and wanes in the sky show.
Charles Addams's New York is made possible with the generous support of Melvin R. Seiden, the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, and The Addams Family: A New Musical,
and is curated by Sarah Henry, Chief Curator of the Museum of the City of New York, with the assistance of Kevin Miserocchi, Executive Director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation.
The Museum of the City of New York presents and interprets the past, present, and future of New York City and celebrates its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. Founded in 1923 as a private, non-profit corporation, the Museum serves the people of New York and visitors from across the country and around the world through exhibitions, collections, publications, and school and public programs. Exhibitions on other graphic artists, including Saul Steinberg's New York, have garnered praise from the press and the public alike.
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