May 17th, 2010


Charles Addams

Like many people, my first introduction to Charles Addams was through the TV show The Addams Family, which I adored in reruns as a child and still grin madly over when I catch the occasional episode as an adult. It was only much later in life that I discovered Addams' artwork and fell in love with it, to the point where he remains one of my favorite artists.

There's a dark, ghoulish sense of humor to his illustrations that's right up my alley, but it's the utter lack of meanness or cynicism that makes it so truly charming. Even the rare hints of violence and death, such as in the piece above, are presented in a lighthearted manner more likely to provoke chuckles than the concerned clucking of tongues.

This weekend I was fortunate enough to see the Charles Addams exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (my first time there, actually, and my first time seeing the northern end of Central Park at 110th Street, despite living in New York City for the majority of my forty-one years). The exhibit as a whole was fantastic, showcasing some 60 Addams illustrations--mostly focusing on his New York-centric work--as well as his old drafting table and instruments. Visitors also get to see early drafts of some of his pieces, including rough sketches of proposed New Yorker covers, which offers a welcome, additional insight into the artist's process. Informational plaques also help trace the evolution of the "Addams family" over time, from disparate characters who appeared separately to an eventual tight-knit clan that's always pictured together. (In one interesting plaque, we learn Pugsley's original name was Pubert, but the New Yorker editors nixed that. In a mild bit of payback, the name was eventually given to Morticia's new baby in the film Addams Family Values.)

If you're in town, the museum is running the exhibit through June 8. I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if you love Charles Addams' work as much as I do.