THE CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSEUM PRESENTS
The west coast exhibition debut of the work of celebrated New Yorker cartoonist and award-winning graphic memoirist Roz Chast
April 27–September 3, 2017
(San Francisco, CA, February 20, 2017) You know a Roz Chast cartoon when you see it. From a sampling of belated Mother’s Day cards that say things like, “See? I didn’t completely blow it off,” to the “Dumbest Pacts with the Devil Ever,” Chast’s distinctive drawings revel in the anxieties and absurdities of contemporary life and have made her one of the most celebrated cartoonists in the United States today.
Since the 1970s, Chast has produced over 1,200 cartoons and covers for The New Yorker and other magazines, several illustrated books for children and adults, and her award-winning 2014 visual memoir about the last years of her elderly parents’ lives, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs, an exhibition organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, highlights Chast’s signature style and wit with approximately 250 objects including most of the original work for Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, original cartoons for The New Yorker and others, book illustrations, storytelling rugs, and more.
“Roz Chast was born to kvetch and we are all the better for it,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director of The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM). “With a particular New York Jewish sensibility, Chast’s humor of complaint offers us all a chance to laugh at the often stressful and absurd world around us. She is an important social satirist who, like so many other Jewish humorists, has helped to shape our culture, and with her moving and honest memoir, she shows us how deeply she can touch our hearts as well. The CJM is honored to present the west coast debut of this exhibition.”
The four-color drawings that make up the pages of Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? are a special focus of the exhibition. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1954, Chast is the only child of two educators who inspired her art and world view—her strong-willed mother, Elizabeth, and her gentle, worrywart father, George. The artist’s poignant tale, punctuated by moments of hilarity, traces their physical and cognitive decline, from “The Beginning of the End” to “The End,” examining the complexities of her relationship with them through the years.
The book, a #1 New York Times bestseller, has garnered acclaim for its grimly funny and moving examination of end-of-life issues as she experienced them with her elderly parents. It was a 2014 National Book Award finalist and won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Autobiography, the first time a graphic novel has won in this category. It also won the Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction, the 2014 Books for a Better Life Award, and the 2015 Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society. The book and Chast’s artwork were also recognized with a Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities in 2015.
Chast’s work has also appeared in almost twenty other books, both her own and others’. The exhibition features original drawings for several children’s books including Chast’s own Around the Clock that features antics for every hour on the hour, as well as Too Busy Marco and Marco Goes to School, both about a small red bird. Illustrations on view from other children’s titles include Now I Will Never Leave the Dinner Table by Jane Read Martin, Gabby the Shrew by Alpha-Betty Olsen and Marshall Efron, and Meet My Staff by Patricia Marx.
Also featured are all of the illustrations from Chast’s book What I Hate from A to Z, a darkly funny spin on the classic alphabet book with a new horror or unpleasantry for each letter including alien abductions, elevators, water bugs, and the color yellow. A substantial number of illustrations Chast created for 101 Two-letter Words, a book of two-letter words allowed in the game of Scrabble, by Stephin Merritt also appear in the exhibition. These include an eye-patch-wearing pirate parrot for the word AR and a jar of Grandma Yetta’s Gefilte Fish for OY.
Many of the cartoons and magazine covers that readers of The New Yorker have known and loved over the years appear in the exhibition as well. In addition, two of Chast’s hand-hooked storytelling rugs will be on display including one called Dad’s Favorite Foods, as well as several hand-made mini books with titles such as The Small Pamphlet of Things.
A video interview with the artist and a video of her at work on a large mural will be screened in the gallery, and visitors can also interact with a walk-in, life-sized recreation of one of her cartoons. A selection of family photos and ephemera are also on view.
Roz Chast grew up in Brooklyn, NY and received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design with studies in graphic design and painting, though she soon after returned to her love of cartooning. Fewer than two years out of college, at age 24, The New Yorker accepted her first submission, a small collection of homely and imaginary “Little Things,” and added her to their roster of approximately forty artists under contract. The publication has published her work continuously ever since. David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, has called her “the magazine’s only certifiable genius.” Chast has also provided cartoons and editorial illustrations for nearly 50 magazines and journals from Mother Jones to Town & Country.
She is the author of numerous books for children and adults. In addition to the titles mentioned previously, her books include a collaboration with humorist Steve Martin titled The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z!; No Fair! No Fair! And other Jolly Poems of Childhood with Calvin Trillin; and The African Svelte: Ingenious Misspellings that Make Surprise Sense with Daniel Menaker. In addition, Chast was guest editor for The Best American Comics 2016 and is currently working on Going Into Town: A Sort-of Guide to the City (NYC) (Fall 2017, Bloomsbury).
Chast lectures widely and has received numerous prestigious awards including honorary degrees from Pratt Institute and the Art Institute of Boston. She lives in Connecticut with her family and several parrots.
Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs is organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Lead sponsorship of the exhibition at The Contemporary Jewish Museum is provided by Gaia Fund and the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation. Major sponsorship is provided by Baird, Joyce B. Linker, Dorothy R. Saxe, and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch. Patron sponsorship is provided by Shana Nelson Middler and David Middler. Supporting sponsorship is provided by Judy and Robert Aptekar; Dana Corvin and Harris Weinberg; Nellie and Max Levchin; Siesel Maibach; Susan and Jay Mall, in memory of Alyne Salstone; Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery, Marilyn and Murry Waldman; and Howard and Barbara Wollner. Media sponsorship by BARTable and The Wall Street Journal.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibition program is supported by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase “L’Chaim” (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.
Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by an Anonymous donor; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Carbon Five; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Millennium Partners, the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; The Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund; RayKo; Dorothy R. Saxe; Seiger Family Foundation; and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch.
For more information about The Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit The Museum’s website at thecjm.org/press
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