This is the first retrospective view of the work of Saul Steinberg, an artist who has become internationally known through his published cartoons and drawings. Steinberg is a frontiersman of genres, an artist who cannot be confined to a category. He is a writer of pictures, an architect of speech and sounds, a draftsman of philosophical reflections. His line of a master penman and calligrapher, aesthetically delectable in itself, is also the line of an illusionist formulating riddles and jokes about appearances.
In addition, it is a 'line' in the sense of organized gab. Because he is attracted to pen and ink and pencils, and because of the complex intellectual nature of his products, one may think of Steinberg as a kind of writer, though there is only one of his kind. He has worked out exchanges between the verbal and visual meaning, that have caused him to be compared to James Joyce. His art-monologues bring into being pictures that are words, and words that have the solidity of things, and that suffer the misfortunes of living creatures.
Steinberg's compositions cross the borders between art and caricature, illustration, children's art, 'art brut', satire, while conveying reminiscences of styles from Greek and Oriental to Cubist and Constructivist. As a cartoonist, Steinberg tantalizes those who wish to separate high art from the mass media. Granted that he is witty, formally ingenious, a great calligrapher, 'Is he an artist?' Steinberg is aware that he is a borderline case, and seems content with the ambiguity of his position. To display Steinberg's drawings and paintings in an art museum is, however, to define them as art.