Morris-Jumel is proud to announce a terrific and timely new exhibit of the famed New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams, for the Fall/Winter 2017 season. Charles Addams Family and Friends will explore family values, rearing of children, entertaining and family outings. Additionally, the exhibition looks at New York and presidential life and will feature memorabilia as well as other Addams ephemera. The opening reception is, appropriately, on Friday October 13th at 6PM at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace, New York City. The exhibit will run until February 18th. Morris-Jumel is open Tuesday – Sunday and is accessible by the 1, A & C subway lines. For more info, call 212 923-8008 or visit morrisjumel.org.
Ghoulish, macabre, demonic, depraved, bizarre, eerie and weird have all been used to describe his work and the characters therein. Adorable, sweet, charming, humorous, enchanting, tender and captivating are also adjectives used to describe the same body of work, as well as The Man himself, the extraordinary artist Charles Addams. His rare gift was the ability to enjoin such dichotomies in wonderfully crafted cartoons and drawings loved by millions worldwide.
Charles Addams is most widely known for the creation of The Addams Family, characters that formed the basis of the TV show which first appeared in 1964. Now famous, Morticia, Fester, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley Grandmama, Lurch and Thing existed as various forms and aspects in Addams’ cartoons prior to the sitcom. It was in working with the idea a television production that Addams coalesced a motley group of unnamed characters into the specific personages he then collectively called The Addams Family. The Addams characters appear in only about 150 Addams original works. The majority of his works are occupied by hundreds of other characters, from aviators to zoo keepers. Addams themes deal as much with modern life as with ancient times and his topics span art, travel, relationships, the workplace, animals and children, to name a few.
Born in Westfield, New Jersey in 1912, Charles Samuel Addams’ prodigal artistic talent led him to become one of America’s best cartoonists. In 1933, at just 21 years of age, The New Yorker first published his work. Addams went on to become one of that magazine’s marquee contributors until his death in 1988. His body of work spans almost 60 years of output and is estimated to contain several thousand works. Over 15 books of his drawings have been published so far, appearing in many languages across the globe. Addams works appear in a number of prestigious Permanent Collections including The New York Public Library, The Museum of the City of New York and The Library of Congress.
October 21st: Family Day: Create your own comic strip | 11am-1pm | Free with Admission
November 4th: Cartooning lecture by Alex Rachel | 3pm-4:30pm | $20, $15 Members/Students/Seniors
December 15th: Indoor Movie Night: Nightmare Before Christmas | 7pm-9pm | Free | Advance registration required
January 20th: Lecture by New Yorker Cartoonist Felipe Galindo | 3pm-4:30pm | $20, $15 Members/Students/Seniors
January 26th: Indoor Movie Night: The Addams Family | 7pm-9pm | Free
February 10th: Create your own paper silhouette | 2pm-4pm | Free with Admission
February 16th: Indoor Movie Night: Addams Family Values | 7pm-9pm | Free
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky………,
So, describes the characters to spring forth from the mind of Charles Addams, a dominant force in twentieth century visual humor. His work is filled with subtle suggestions, double entendre, visual puns, along with commentary on contemporary society, historic events, and artistic triumphs.
Charles Samuel Addams a precocious, prodigal artistic talent was born to Grace and Charles Huey Addams in Westfield, New Jersey on January 7, 1912. He displayed an interest in the macabre at an early age through his fascination with coffins, skeletons and other elements of the spooky. Encouraged by his father, a piano executive who trained as an architect, to draw, Addams honed those skills through the literary magazine at Westfield High School where he graduated in 1929. He went on to study at Colgate University, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania where the fine arts building is now named for him. He then moved to New York to attend Grand Central School of Art. While there he sold his first spot sketch to the New Yorker magazine in 1932. The following year, Addams sold his first drawing to the New Yorker and by 1935 he was a regular contributor to the publication.
A prolific artist, Addams contributed to innumerable books, periodicals and newspapers. The first anthology of his drawings, Drawn and Quartered appeared in 1942 followed seven years later with Addams and Evil, which led to fourteen additional solo publications. He participated in the exhibition Bresdin and Other Masters of the Weird at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1952, followed by his first solo exhibition Chas Addams’ New York at the Museum of the City of New York.
Addams’ sardonic wit was transmitted to a broader audience in 1964 through the characterization of Morticia and Gomez Addams along with members of their extended family when CBS premiered The Addams Family. Shot in beautiful black and white, the characters went on to appear in another television series, two animated television series, two feature films, and a musical. Of the thousands of drawing, of which over 2500 were published, only 150 feature members of the family. Strolling through the galleries you will meet members of the family, presidents and an assortment of New Yorkers reflective of what made the city so captivating to Addams.
Embracing a true egalitarian Yankee spirit, Addams strove to depict members of an old New York family, reflective to some manner that is, performing tasks common amongst most city dwellers. However, their appearance, expressions and actions does raise cause for concern. In these portraits Addams shares the joy members of the family experience through the activities of daily life. Be it the pleasant sense of surprise while selecting food at the automat and discovering a decapitated head served on a bed of new potatoes. Or a dear, sweet, older member of the family gleefully icing a cake that she prepared for someone special, again while he subtly places an indication of a secret ingredient included in her batter. Or the universal feeling, of after a long day’s activities, whatever they may have been, relaxing in solitude with a cup of coffee from a personalized mug. In each of the images Addams brings activities common among the viewer to members of his imagined family. In doing so, he embodies the teachings of the American painter and titular head of the Ashcan School, Robert Henri, who counseled younger artists to paint what you know, what you experience, paint the life around you. Indeed, Addams did.
Through the idealized somewhat mythological world depicted in the work of Norman Rockwell the mid-twentieth century family is a well-mannered, nuclear group celebrating achievements, holidays, embracing pets and gathering together to tell stories or read books. The same can be said for the well-ordered multi-generational nuclear family created by Addams albeit they are a tad bit better set than most, they dress somewhat different, have some macabre habits, different pets and certainly different customs for welcoming the Jolly Old Elf. Yet, there is always a gracious polite manner often associated with the well born. Be it giving a gentle warning as to where to find the meter, instructing the babysitter as to the children’s bedtime, looking at family albums, demonstrating admiration for one’s parent or sentiments for the holidays. An essential aspect of Addams work is the parody of domestic life, the nonchalant way the family members exist with all proper behavior, but possibly with some very ghoulish results. The parents look on with admiration at the children that they reared, who appear to be well behaved within the parameters expected and always their family values are expressed.
Addams embraced and chronicled New York for over fifty years through his impressions of urban life, often referencing concerns and conceits expressed and experienced by the citizenry. His visual puns frequently magnify topics reflective of the evolving cityscape, like the image of a submerged Manhattan or the victory of an antique structure persevering over a wall of encroaching mundane towers. Often, he provides a glimpse of unexpected occurrences one might encounter on the city streets, albeit though his interpretation is a bit shocking for even the most jaded New Yorker; such as the suggestion of the arrival of an aquatic creature that emerged from the East River only to proceed down a quiet Sutton Place street. A worker consumed by mundane tasks oblivious to a serious situation, requiring immediate attention. Further, through his exploration of the city, Addams provides insight into concerns of pre-gentrified New York, descending into the subway at night, the bucolic summer heat, or your basic home security system. Even depictions of park life, while at first blush might appear welcoming, something less peaceful awaits the blasé city dweller whether they be well fed tree dwelling rodents, a seal situated in front of the Arsenal in Central Park poised to awaken those slumbering along Fifth Avenue or folks who just do not know when to leave the park.