Marvelous Maira Kalman show!
August 25th, 2011

Last month we caught the Maira Kalman show in New York, and though it’s now closed, we’re such huge fans of her work and it was such a lovely show that we had to share our enthusiasm with those who might have missed it.

Maira Kalman achieved fame with her now-iconic New Yorker ‘Newyorkistan’ cover, and then further renown with her illustrated coverage for the New York Times of the last election. There is also an ever-growing band of us that pass around her inspirational book ‘The Principles of Uncertainty’ like samizdat. (We’ve given so many copies as gifts, we’ve had to start a list.)

Maira Kalman’s first plan was to be a poet, but, with characteristic honesty, decided her poems were terrible. Instead she found poetry in everyday objects, and now her illustrations lead us to find bursts of joy in items we might otherwise not notice. She opens our eyes to the delightful way duvets are folded in an Austrian hotel (lower right), or the rather poignant simplicity of Le Corbusier’s sink (top right). The exhibition also has a room full of the actual objects that she has collected and painted over the years, and these are marvelous to behold (middle left).

What also inspires us about her work is her rich use of color. Our favorites: her vivid chartreuse (check out Edith Sitwell, middle right), lush vermillion and pulsing pink — often used together in the same piece. But she also has a beautiful milky white and beige that serve as counterpoint.

The exhibition is informed by her modesty and sense of wonder, which brings a sense of charm and intimacy you rarely find in an exhibition. As Kalman says, “Good things come of incomprehension”, and what fresher way to celebrate the world than that?

Sources: Kalman has several books that are widely available, and you can follow her fabulous blog. Whigby also do a great range of cards with her illustrations. And of course there is

* Maira Kalman, Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World), Jewish Museum, NY, exhibit now closed.


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