Museum of American Illustration

Edification value
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Should you go?
Time spent 61 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned I was just talking about taking a drawing class, and The Society of Illustrators holds $20 figure drawing sessions, with a bar and live music!  Naked people, alcohol, music, and art.  I mean, what more could one possibly want?

Here’s another place that I had no idea existed before starting this project.  The Society of Illustrators occupies a very handsome townhouse on East 63rd Street, and includes an ample museum space (and even a gift shop!) for showing off the work of illustrators of all kinds.

The museum is terrific, although given that it is a townhouse, there are some stairs to navigate — fair warning if you’re movement impaired.

But what they have is fascinating, including portraits of illustrious illustrators hung in the aforementioned stairways, and temporary exhibitions.  One of their gallery spaces is tucked into a narrow hallway that currently is painted bright red.  It really worked for a show of the work of graphic novel artist Tony Harris, but I hope it’s that way all the time. I’m pretty sure it’s the most exciting room I’ve visited on this project to date.

All the gallery spaces are enjoyable, if much less zippy than the Red Hallway.  They are extremely well suited to the types of work they show.  You can tell the Society has been doing this for a long time, albeit under my radar. 

And the current show is a stunner, a retrospective celebrating the 100th birthday of Will Eisner, possibly the most influential comic artist, well, ever.  In many ways he created the form, and it’s fascinating to move from pieces of his very early work, where he still worked within the then-standard grids of 12 boxes per page, to where he literally thought outside the box, and reworked pages into this extremely expressive medium we know today.  He didn’t coin the term “graphic novel,” but he is considered the father of the form.  Eisner was a relative rarity in that he both wrote and drew, so his books are his through and through.  Most modern comics take 3-6 people to produce, which is in no way meant to discount the talents of those who create them, just to emphasize how unique Eisner was.

Eisner was not at all afraid to get philosophical in his work. From “A Life Force,” 1988

I definitely recommend visiting the Society of Illustrators.  It’s a great space, with a neat, sometimes undervalued area of focus.

For Reference:

Address 128 E 63rd Street, Manhattan
Cost  General Admission:  $12; free on Tuesday evenings
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