Field Trip Friday: Maira Kalman’s Exhibit at the Jewish Museum

Recently, OHNY staffers Renee and Hae-In went to see Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) at The Jewish Museum. It is the last stop of this exhibition, which started last year at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.

visitors at the Maira Kalman exhibit

Kalman’s work is characterized by her whimsical style, bright colors and curiosity, and OHNY fans will remember her 2008 OHNY Weekend event guide cover (below), which highlighted six different OHNY Weekend sites throughout the five boroughs with wonderful details, such as a woman inspecting the cheese in Murray’s Cheese caves, an amorous couple at the Bronx Community College Hall of Fame for Great Americans, and an ostrich in front of Staten Island’s Jacob Crocheron House.

Kalman's cover of OHNY's 2008 event guide

As a well known illustrator, author, and designer, Kalman observes the world around her and highlights contemporary life–often in New York City–with a unique sense of humor and wit. The exhibition features many works on paper, including the original sketch for her now famous “New Yorkistan” map that appeared on the cover of the New Yorker in December 2001.

gallery with objects

However, the show also includes her photography, embroidery and textiles, including a pajama shirt produced by Kate Spade, jacket by Isaac Mizrahi and upholstered ottomans by Maharam. Kalman also furnished the gallery with chairs, ladders, and curios drawn from her collections, many of which are represented in her paintings and drawings. One thing Renee and Hae-In especially enjoyed was a display of fried onion rings, collected by Kalman and her late husband and artistic partner, Tibor Kalman.

Le Corbusier Sink, 2006. Gouache on paper, 7 3/4 x 7 1/2 in.

Born in Israel, Kalman moved to New York at age 4 and has lived here ever since. She is not a formally trained illustrator or painter, but her work contains many cultural and art historical references, from Matisse and Chagall, and also draws from high fashion, travel, politics and design.

Cake detail from The New York City Sub Culinary Map with Rick Meyerowitz

Kalman takes things from the everyday– rubberbands, boxes, a Snickers bar, our commute– and imbues them with honest, quirky, absurd and imaginative qualities, giving them color and personality. As Ingrid Schaffner, Senior Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania states, “Hers is a daily discipline of creativity based on photography, travel, research, walking, talking, and open observation. A serious love of distraction pervades. ”

Crosstown Boogie Woogie, 1995. Gouache on paper, 15 3/8 x 11 1/2 in.

The show is small, but does a great job showcasing Kalman’s various projects, from paintings to watches, and also allows you into her inner world, with the use of personal objects and handwritten labels. The show closes July 31, make sure to check it before then!

The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY

Images courtesy of The Jewish Museum

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