Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maira Kalman
Various Illuminations
of a Crazy World

I first heard of illustrator, author and designer Maira Kalman when a friend forwarded her New York Times blog, about a trip to City Hall and a sewage treatment plant. Her funny, interesting and educational story was intermingled (intertwingled?) with paintings and photographs of what she saw along the way and at the plant.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco has an exhibit of Kalman's work, now through October 26. Like a good San Franciscan, I tried to take the Muni railway to the museum. But then there was a switching problem, followed by a few and far between bus and trolley problem, and then a full to the brim bus, trolley and cab problem. Finally made it to the museum about an hour and a half after I left.

As there is a lot of detail in Kalman's work, as well as plenty of reading of the several books accessible in the exhibit, I recommend going to the exhibit when one is fresh. Choose your mode of transportation accordingly.

The Kalman exhibit includes drawings, books, children's books, designs on clothing, objects that appear in her work, and short films. Photographs are also on display, including a series on free sofas on the sidewalk. Coincidentally, I had taken a similar photo below, just before boarding the train to nowhere. Somehow, Kalman's free sofa photos are so much more revealing.

My favorite of her books was "FIREBOAT, The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey."

It is a wonderful combination of fun and history, powerful and inspiring.

by Phil Gravitt


Anonymous said...

Let us not forget her wonderful work on and in the new yorker!

namastenancy said...

I love all of her books - one of my particular favorites is "Swami on Rye." I also wrote about the exhibit here:

bluemonk said...

Oooh! I have a small collection of children's books by some of my favorite illustrators-- I can't WAIT to check out this show. Thanks!