Maira Kalman

The Elements of Style

June 1 - September 16, 2017

We are thrilled to announce the exhibition of the complete series of fifty-seven paintings from Maira Kalman’s lauded 2005 edition of the illustrated The Elements of Style shown together for the first time in New York. Kalman is the author of 25 illustrated books for both children and adults, but this is the one she holds closest to her heart. Many of Kalman’s books have been exhibited at the gallery during the fifteen years we have represented her, including the Principles of Uncertainty, Food Rules, Girls Standing on Lawns, etc., and sold to individual collectors, but Kalman has chosen to keep The Elements together, and we will be offering this body of work in its entirety as one work.

Kalman discovered the modest but revered reference compiled by William Strunk and E.B. White and known to generations of aspiring writers and English students at a used bookstore around 2002. She found it so amusing and subject to visual interpretation that it became her most beloved project to date.

At the time of publication it also became an original opera written by the young prodigy Nico Muhly in collaboration with Kalman, and commissioned by the New York Public Library. It was performed in the main reading room at the NYPL in October 2005 and subsequently at Lincoln Center and the Dia Foundation in Beacon.

Of the many paintings that are strategically deployed throughout the book, there are many complex and almost always humorous relationships to the text. Here are three examples; she depicts a romantic couple seated out of doors with the female looking longingly away from her man to illustrate the text about comparative pronouns “Polly loves cake more than she loves me.” A guilty expression accompanies a basset hound in the caption on parenthetic phrases “Well, Susan, this is a fine mess you are in.” The use of a singular verb in the context of a group is demonstrated by the sentence “None of us is perfect”, illustrated by a strangely
disconnected group of individuals.

Kalman applies her creative skills to many platforms. She and her son Alex
collaborated on an installation currently up at the Metropolitan Museum entitled “Sarah Berman’s Closet.” She also recently designed a workout/ performance for the Met, executed a mural for the Russ and Daughters Café at the Jewish Museum, performed as a duck in the Peter and the Wolf production with Isaac Mizrahi at the Guggenheim, designed an installation and exhibition for the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt and is currently working on publications for the NYPL, the Gertrude Stein archive and the Frick Collection. She recently completed a series of three illustrated books for MoMA in collaboration with the photography department and Daniel Handler. She is currently working on a full-length ballet with John Heginbotham doing text, sets, costumes, animations, and performing that premier this summer at Jacob’s Pillow.

We will have a book signing on the closing day of the exhibition, featuring Kalman’s earliest and most popular children’s books, Hey Willy, See the Pyramids and Max Makes a Million, along with The Elements of Style.

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