Joel Smith, Author . Abrams $50 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8109-5901-9

Steinberg's high-concept graphic art—epitomized by his oft-imitated cartoon map in which a Manhattan distended with self-importance shoves the continents of North America and Asia to the margins—is enchantingly showcased in this lavishly illustrated retrospective of his work for the New Yorker . Smith, a curator at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar and author of Edward Steichen: The Early Years , surveys six decades of Steinberg's pieces, including all 89 New Yorker covers (in full color), cartoons, wartime sketches from overseas, evocative (but never literal-minded) illustrations for articles, and unpublished items from the artist's portfolio. The material is arranged thematically, examining such recurring motifs as cats, pedestals and rubber-stamped figures and documenting the turn to visual metaphor in Steinberg's later work, where symbolic graphic representations of sound, abstract relationships and existential conundrums replace the usual scenario-with-verbal-punch line cartoon setup. Smith's pithy biographical essay situates Steinberg as a self-conscious modernist who helped develop a distinctive New Yorker visual style, one with "a wry, informal wit... attuned to the jittery optimism of the Atomic Age." Steinberg's cartoons usually made readers think before they laughed, and so will this splendid memorial to a 20th-century artistic landmark. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
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