Tomi Ungerer: The Mirror of a Century

Tomi Ungerer: All in One, curated by Claire Gilman at The Drawing Center, NYC.

It is amazing to witness works of art that profoundly change the direction you're moving through life with. A few days removed from experiencing Tomi Ungerer: All in One at The Drawing Center in SOHO, I am still remarkably elevated.

The show not only took you through the life of the artist, but through the soul of the world from 1940 to the present.

Image courtesy of Tomi Ungerer Collection, Ireland

Starting off with his schoolboy sketchbooks (which were composed in Nazi occupied Alsace), to originals of his children's book designs, to protest posters, to classic illustrations for the Village Voice and New York Times, and finally his bondage work that set his world spinning, the exhibition was delicately curated by the knowing hands of Claire Gilman.

The viewer is able to witness the process of Ungerer getting an idea that was swimming around in his mind to spill out perfectly. In an era where we are too quick to search for a stock image on Getty to convey a certain mood, Ungerer's work stands as a beacon for telling people to walk over slowly to this side of the world and take a look at what's happening.

Image courtesy of Tomi Ungerer Collection, Ireland

The times Ungerer lived through are stained forever on the canvases that he impressed himself upon. As you walk through the show, there are little cards next to each item depicting not only what's happening in front of you, but when and where in history it took place. All too often, exhibitions attempt to show you how much they know, forcing their interpretations on you. At this show however, it's as if there are personal valets standing before each piece preparing the perfect lens to look through.

While there were instances where one could reflect on the history Ungerer moved through, at other times, you could see your naked self reflected back in the work. There is an almost healing potion that absolves you of your pain by experiencing the Ungerer's placement of it.

Image courtesy of Tomi Ungerer Collection, Ireland

If you really want to treat yourself, I suggest watching Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story on Netflix before you go. It will add another layer to the experience.

The show only runs through March 22nd, so while New York goes through its initial winter thaw, there is no better way to start a new season than to take in an artist who refused to be pushed down by definitions, countries or industries.