Maira Kalman at the Philadelphia ICA

Maira Kalman at the Philadelphia ICA

Ronee Saroff
Apr 8, 2010

There are many reasons to visit the city of brotherly love: tons of history, great food, world-class institutions. And now there's another one. Through June 6, the Institute of Contemporary Art presents Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World), the first major museum survey of the work of illustrator, author, and designer Maira Kalman.

I first encountered Kalman's quirky sense of humor and idiosyncratic style through her books for children. But it was her work for The New Yorker and The New York Times that really brought home to me what a unique and relevant voice she is in contemporary American culture. Like the classic humorists, she challenges our perception of ourselves by taking on the figures and events of our shared history with childlike curiosity and fearless wit. But unlike her predecessors, her work expresses a joyful appreciation of where we have been and a hopefulness that somehow, eventually, we will get it right.

The ICA exhibit spans thirty years of original work on paper and product design along with Kalman's lesser known work in photography, embroidery, textiles, and performance. In addition, Kalman created a special installation furnished with chairs, ladders, and "many tables of many things" to provide a context for the survey.

For details about the show, visit the Institute of Contemporary Art. To learn more about Maira Kalman, check out her web site or read her New York Times blog And the Pursuit of Happiness.

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