The Other Sides of Seuss

The New York Times reviews the new Dr. Seuss exhibition at the Animazing Gallery.

SoHo has recently become the habitat for some extraordinarily rare species, including the Tufted Gustard, the Two-Horned Drouberhannis, the Blue Green Abelard and the Andulovian Grackler. These odd animals, some liberated from a chicken coop in upstate New York, have hardly ever been glimpsed in Manhattan or, for that matter, anywhere else. And to think that I saw them on Broome Street.

Such wild creatures originated not in some far-flung continent but in the imagination of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Carved in wood, these 1930’s sculptures are in “The Art of Dr. Seuss,” a show at the Animazing Gallery.

Dr. Seuss the sculptor? This display also features Dr. Seuss the advertising genius, Dr. Seuss the magazine illustrator, Dr. Seuss the political cartoonist and Dr. Seuss the Surrealist, as well as sketches from his beloved children’s books. (The Cat in the Hat will greet children at the show tomorrow through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Much of the art has never been exhibited before.

“He was a private person and not a very confident man,” said Heidi Leigh, the gallery’s director. “He knew that with his children’s books and in the advertising arena he was successful. I think he didn’t dare to expose himself as a fine artist.”

An example of his self-effacement is “Man Who Made an Unwise Purchase,” a colorful painting of a Chaplinesque fellow carrying on his shoulder a huge, yellow, unmistakably Seussian bird. “What the painting is about is the 18th publisher, who bought his first book,” Ms. Leigh said. That tale, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” had been rejected by 17 others.

But Dr. Seuss was self-assured in his political views. Complementing his ad campaign for bug repellent is a 1942 illustration of Uncle Sam administering “mental insecticide” to a startled man, blasting a “racial prejudice bug” out of the man’s ear.

The show even includes a bit of bawdy doggerel and a few nudes. But don’t worry: Dr. Seuss’s illustrations for his book “The Seven Lady Godivas” are no more anatomically correct than Barbie dolls. But they are much more Rubenesque and have something Mattel’s creations don’t: a sense of humor.

“The Art of Dr. Seuss,” through June at Animazing Gallery, 461 Broome Street, near Greene Street, SoHo, (212) 226-7374. Free.

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