Roz Chast’s cartoons offer a witty reflection on everyday scenarios and modern anxieties. Through children’s books, editorial illustrations and graphic memoirs, she has covered topics from death to dieting and the highs and lows of living in New York.
Now, the city’s School of Visual Arts has honoured her achievements with an award and exhibition showcasing old, new and previously unseen work.
Chast is the latest creative to be honoured in SVA’s Masters Series, an initiative set up to champion creatives who are revered in their field but little known among the general public. (Previous laureates include Deborah Sussman, Paul Rand and Paula Scher.)
The exhibition brings together five decades of drawings and cartoons by Chast, along with a hand-drawn mural depicting a New York street, hand-painted Easter eggs, embroidered rugs and pages from her high school notebooks.
There are extracts from several books, including Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – a moving memoir about Chast’s experience of caring for her ageing parents – and Going Into Town, an illustrated “love letter” to New York which started out as a gift to her daughter.
The show also features a wealth of illustrations covers for the New Yorker (she sold her first cartoon to the magazine in 1978 and has created over 800 since) plus large-scale versions of charming characters drawn by Chast. Personal possessions and photographs are displayed in a mock living room (the same room depicted on the cover of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?), and a video interview with Chast offers an insight into her process and inspiration.
It’s a rare chance to see a vast range of work from a cartoonist known for her distinctive sense of humour and style – and her enduring love of New York. Speaking to CR earlier this year, she said she finds the city an endless source of inspiration: “I love that there are always people around. I love that it runs all night. I love the anonymity. I love the unbelievable density and the fact that Manhattan has defined edges – it doesn’t just fade out into a bunch of ugly, nameless shopping centre/gas station areas, like so many other American cities.”
The exhibition is open until December 15 and Chast will be giving a talk at the gallery on November 28.
SVA Chelsea Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, New York City, until December 15. For details, see sva.edu. You can read an interview with Chast from CR’s Humour issue, in which she discusses her work, finding her voice and growing up in New York, here.