"The art of living in the wrong century - this is Saul Steinberg's (1914 – 1999) own designation for the predicament he has been illustrating for over a decade. In his latest collection, The Passport (the title is a deceptively mild clue to the whole works; it sneaks up on you), he has again and more inexorably than ever demonstrated his infinite capacity for taking pains in his graphic pursuit of melange, drafting, with a vilifying grasp of the murderously essential, our contemporary quest for style - in architecture, in furniture, clothing and machines - which we can also own."
WHY DO THEY DISTORT THINGS? CAN'T THEY DRAW? WHY DO THEY
PAINT SQUARES AND CUBES?
In an effort to help answer these and many other similar questions that are overheard in the modern art museums around the world, authors Mary Rathbun and Bartlett Hayes put their noodles together and dreamed up the book Layman's Guide to Modern Art, and we have posted some of the more helpful portions here, as well as 17 assorted illustrations to help illustrate their explanations.
The authors point out that abstract images are not simply confined to museums and galleries but surround us every day and we willingly recognize their meanings without hesitation:
"Lines picturing the force and direction of motion are a familiar device in cartoons... The cartoonist frequently draws a head in several positions to represent motion. Everybody understands it. The painter multiplies the features in the same way... Everybody abstracts. The snapshot you take with your [camera] is an abstraction - it leaves out color, depth, motion and presents only black-and-white shapes. Yet its simple enough to recognize this arrangement of shapes as your baby or your mother-in-law or whatever..."