By Sabina Mollot
Get ready for Dr. Seuss’s dark side.
Pop International Galleries, an art gallery owned by a Stuyvesant Town couple, will be holding an exhibition featuring taxidermy-esque sculptures and prints of oil paintings that were made by the artist best known for his whimsical children’s books.
But when Dr. Seuss wasn’t illustrating and writing books like The Cat in the Hat and Hop on Pop, he was working on paintings he referred to as his “secret art” or “midnight art” and the sculptures, which he called his “unorthodox taxidermy,” were a passion of his, early in his career.
This is actually the second time Pop International is showcasing the works of the late Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. However, unlike the previous show last year, this exhibition features mostly the little-known works. Last time, it was also a mix of sculptures and prints, but there were more prints, limited edition that is, of the more popular book illustrations.
“It’s more about the midnight art (this time),” said Jeff Jaffe, who owns the gallery with wife Nanette Ross. “The stuff he was doing after hours — it was political, a little darker and a little more naughty on some levels.”
Many of his sculptures were done during the 1930s when Geisel was also doing graphic art and advertising design. He also did many World War II era political cartoons. The books came later.
In this show, there will be 17 resin sculptures, which makes up the entire unorthodox taxidermy collection. None are originals, but all are limited editions with some rarer than others, having come from archived collections from museums or special events.
“Some may have been sold out. Some pieces haven’t been available for years,” said Jaffe.
The taxidermy sculptures, though not made with real animal parts, were originally fashioned using the real things like bird bills, horns, antlers and other found parts from animals that Geisel’s father, a zookeeper, would send to his son’s New York apartment. Though the works were different than the colorful illustrations of creatures that would eventually be put into his books, the sculptures are still unquestionably the artist’s signature style with googly eyed animals of his own creation. Jaffe’s favorite is the Blue Green Abelard, a blue-headed animal with long antlers and eyelashes. There’s also the Andoluvian Grackler, which strongly resembles a vulture, and Dilemma Fish, a confused looking aquatic creature that also has an impressive set of antlers. Including the prints, there will be 35-40 works in this show.
Prices for the pieces will range from $2,695 to $25,000 depending on how rare they are. As for the originals, they were all previously donated by Geisel’s widow Audrey to the University of California and are now being held in a museum in San Diego.
It was the artist’s estate who’d approached the gallery with the idea for the show and Pop International is now the official gallery in New York City to represent Dr. Seuss. Geisel, who enjoyed a seven-decade long career, died in 1991.
Meanwhile, at the last Pop International Dr. Seuss exhibition, the works sold “incredibly well,” said Jaffe. “There’s a voracious appetite for his work.
He is probably the most sold author in the history of the world. More children learned to read from his books than any other author in history.”
He found it difficult to say though who enjoyed the show more, children or adults.
“When kids come in, they go nuts,” said Jaffe. “They get dragged into going and then they’re seeing all these wonderful things.”
The show opens on Saturday, September 10 with a reception from 7-9 p.m. and the works will be on display through September 29 at the gallery’s new location at 195 Bowery.
Previously, the nearly 20-year-old gallery was located on West Broadway in SoHo and there was also a second location in midtown’s Citicorp Building. That gallery was initially supposed to be a pop-up but wound up staying open three and a half years. Jaffe and Ross would have continued to lease there, but the building is currently being converted to condos. Where the gallery was is going to be the main elevator shaft.
Jaffe said the gallery’s 20-year-anniversary in business is later this month and he’s not unhappy at all about the move to a single space on the Lower East Side.
“We got solicited by a wonderful landlord, everything seemed to pan out and it’s the most wonderful thing we did,” Jaffe said. He added that the location is what attracted him — and others in his industry.
“It’s amazing how many galleries have moved to the Bowery,” he said. “There’s probably 30 to 50 and we’re a block down from the New Museum with three hotels opening on our street.”
As the gallery’s name suggests, Pop International features works by pop artists from newcomers to the most well known like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.
Jaffe and Ross have lived in Stuyvesant Town, where they’ve raised their two children, for 26 years.