Emma Allen, the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, has a second- or third-hand story about Roz Chast, one of the magazine’s most prolific and best known contributors. In 1978 Chast sold her first work to The New Yorker, a surreal bit of humor called “Little Things.” Arrayed throughout the hand-drawn panel are a series of nonsensical shapes, each labeled with an equally nonsensical name—a “redge,” a “sood,” a “spak.” It’s hard to imagine a gentler gag—and there was some precedent for this sort of absurdist, punchline-free humor in the magazine—but not everyone associated with the publication was won over right away.
Not long after, Allen says, ”an older cartoonist asked [then] art director Lee Lorenz if he owed Chast’s family money—so big was the scandal caused by such small things. By now, of course, it’s abundantly clear that the debt is all on our end.”
This fall, SVA honors Chast with its 30th annual Masters Series award and exhibition. Created by SVA founder Silas H. Rhodes in 1988, the Masters Series celebrates the great, and often unheralded, visual communicators of our time. “The Masters Series: Roz Chast” will be a comprehensive retrospective of Chast’s celebrated career and include her cartooning and illustration work, selections from her more than 20 books and a hand-drawn mural, as well as examples of her personal work, including notebooks Chast kept in high school, embroideries, hooked rugs and hand-dyed pysanky, or Ukrainian-style Easter eggs.