Saturday, April 09, 2011

An ODE to CONTRAST (verse 2)

Saul Steinberg was an artist of insatiable intellectual curiosity.  His imagination overflowed with fresh, orthogonal views of the world and he came up with so many connections and comparisons that he sometimes had to stash long lists of them in imaginary cabinets and closets. 

Sometimes he went beyond words, and diagrammed the meeting of two concepts:

The juxtaposition of these concepts is plenty thought-provoking, and Steinberg's little diagrams add a nice touch of whimsy and mystery.  But I confess a special fondness for Steinberg's pictures where his contrasting concepts have been integrated into the pictures, not just spelled out in words.  Here, Steinberg puts a  mechanical, symmetrical image in bed with a fanciful flourish and leaves us to imagine their love life:

Here, Steinberg compares two realities using a clever graphic device:

In my view,  the contrast of these concepts is more successful in images than in words.


kev ferrara said...

Man, I love that "TRASH" cartoon. I think it is one of his all time classics and every time I look at it I laugh. What I love most about it just how sweeping and vicious it is, while still retaining a kind of innocence as a cartoon.

On the flourish and the donut tryst... in reading you assert that "we are left to imagine their love life..." maybe I'm a prude in my surrealist fantasies, but my mind didn't drift in that direction at all. (I'll skip the ascender jokes) I simply tried to identify the types he was symbolizing (Slicked up Frenchman with cliched french moustache pitching a mousy american secretary were my answers.)

I had to look up Pragma... still not sure if its a word. At least in the sense it seems to take here.

David Apatoff said...

Kev, I agree that "TRASH" is a classic, one of the all time great examples of the power of visual thinking. It's why Steinberg truly belongs in the category of artist rather than writer.

As for the love life of the flourish and the doughnut, I was not thinking about the mechanics of any particular act; I was thinking instead of the line from Fiddler on the Roof: "a fish may love a bird, but where would they build a home together?" Steinberg gave us two very strange bedfellows and the fact that he put them in bed together suggests that they have found a way to accommodate some of their cultural differences.

I don't want all this talk about "contrast" to suggest that I am referring only to maximizing differences. Great artists contrast for the purpose of understanding comparative excellences, placing elements in opposition only so far as is necessary to maximize the effect of the total image as a whole. If the doughnut and the flourish ended up in bed together, I'm sure they learned how to "compare" as well as "contrast."

Anonymous said...

Really cool illustration. Reminds me of Alexis Schofields stuff here