Covers, cartoons, masks and “his” Italy. Here is Saul Steinberg, illustrated from A to Z

Covers, cartoons, masks and “his” Italy. Here is Saul Steinberg, illustrated from A to Z
Covers, cartoons, masks and “his” Italy. Here is Saul Steinberg, illustrated from A to Z

Cats (he loved cats), maps, cities (some real, others likely), parades and uniforms (these are the war echoes of a man who enlisted in the US Navy in the Second World War), friendships (with Costantino Nivola, with Alexander Calder …), figures of women, landscapes and interiors … The Saul Steinberg exhibition. Milano New York (at the Milan Triennale, until March 13, 2022) is as rich as his work, as crowded as many of his tables, as transversal as his genius.

Family Jew, Romanian by birth, Italian by adoption and American citizen since 1943, Saul Steinberg was, in fact, very transversal. Architect, even if he never professed (he graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1940, continuing to study by publishing cartoons on Bertoldo, the magazine of Zavattini, Giovanni Mosca and Giovannino Guareschi), designer and illustrator maximo (his very personal record is 642 illustrations and 85 career covers made for the New Yorker, and here they are all), sculptor of a particular form of sculpture (famous masks in various materials, starting from paper shopping bags), decorator and designer, cartoonist and graffiti artist, exquisite humorist and curious traveler (Africa, America, Europe, from Paris to Hollywood, from Venice to Carpi, from Milan to New York, in fact …), from the «A» of Animali to the «Z» of Zavattini.

His work – funny, amused, cultured, elegant, satirical – is all contained here: a very long and uninterrupted line of cartoons, dozens and dozens of drawings (pencil, pen, pastel …), photographs, covers, magazines , models, fabrics, collages, letters, postcards, books, record covers … There are 350 pieces on display.

Curated by Marco Belpoliti and staged by Italo Lupi, Saul Steinberg. Milan New York (the sumptuous catalog is by Electa), unfolds on the first floor of the Triennale, in the “Curva”, a privileged point of the very fascist and beautiful Palazzo dell’Arte, which – but this is just a coincidence – was inaugurated in ‘ 33, the year in which Steinberg arrived in Milan, remaining there until 1941 and then, after the war, throughout the 1960s and 1970s and beyond, returning several times.

Saul Steinberg loved Italy and was very attached to many Italians, among which, above all, Aldo Buzzi. Who for him was a friend, a colleague, a sort of intellectual alter ego. In fact, of all, Buzzi was the one who knew him best, so much so that he wrote that «Steinberg was born to draw like Fred Astaire was born to dance». Perfect definition.

Saul and Aldo: a perfect and wonderful friendship between literature, art and food whose scent is also smelled here in the exhibition (it doesn’t have much to do with it, but Steinberg once said: “Art precedes technique as smell precedes cake », to say how sensitive he was to food). When he returned to Italy, however, for years, every summer, Saul was a guest in Aldo’s country house, a cottage in Runo di Dumenza, above Luino, and there the two chatted, drew, wrote, but above all they closed themselves in the kitchen to hours preparing dinner for everyone, alone. Neither one nor the other had an easy character, which is why they got along well.

And for the rest, the advice is to visit the exhibition as if it were a funfair of lines, colors, shapes and ideas. Saul Steinberg – who seems a frown even when he greets you with a puppet drawn on the palm of his hand – was really capable of entertaining people.

PREV Milan, 5 Esselunga supermarkets become vaccination centers • Imola Oggi
NEXT “It’s mom’s cooking”