Maira Kalman Decks Museum Halls with Illustration

You may not know the name Maira Kalman right off the bat, but chances are you know her drawings. Her wildly popular New York Times illustration blog presents an irreverent stream of consciousness on everything from US presidents to the citizens of New York City. She illustrated The Elements of Style (the one in the red clothbound cover) and her writing graces the menus and awning of West Village eatery The New French. Basically, her whimsical, observant doodles are everywhere, now including her first museum survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Images from the exhibition Various Illuminations (Of a Crazy World) after the jump.

Maira Kalman “Crosstown Boogie Woogie” (1995), gouache on paper, 15 3/8 x 11 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York.

Kalman, who received no formal training as an artist, was born in Tel Aviv and has lived in New York since the age of four. She’s illustrated twelve children’s books and ’twas she who sketched the now-iconic “New Yorkistan” cover for a post-9/11 issue of The New Yorker. About her switch from writing to drawing, Kalman tells Paper magazine:

“I didn’t know that I could draw, but I had that combo of naïve optimism and terror, and a very short attention span, not wanting to learn anything. I thought, I’ve been around art, I can do this; I can draw. My sister is a painter. I went to the High School of Music and Art for music, so it wasn’t some alien occupation to me.”

Maira Kalman “Dog Reads Book” (1999), gouache on paper, 17 1/4 x 13 1/2 inches, and “Woman with Face Net” (2000), gouache on paper, 17 x 14 3/4 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York.

Maira Kalman “New York, Grand Central Station” (1999), gouache and ink on paper, 15 3/8 x 22 1/4 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York.

Maira Kalman “Self-Portrait with Pete” (2004-5), gouache on paper, 16 x 15 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York.

Maira Kalman’s Various Illuminations (Of a Crazy World) will be on view at the ICA in Philadelphia through June 6. Following its premiere, the exhibition will travel to Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (July 1-October 26, 2010); Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles (November 16, 2010-February 13, 2011); and The Jewish Museum, New York (March 11-July 31, 2011).