Sarah Montague, Senior Producer, Selected Shorts
Sarah Montague is in her seventeenth year as producer of the fiction series Selected Shorts for WNYC.
There is the New York of skyscrapers and brownstones, plazas and parks, busy streets and isolated nooks. And then there is Charles Addams’ New York — the same landscape, but suddenly filled with ogres, trolls, witches, and just plain weirdness.
This is the cityscape on display at the Museum of the City of New York through May 16. The exhibition offers a look into the cheerfully macabre world of the prolific New Yorker cartoonist, who contributed to the magazine for more than 50 years.
Addams, who died in 1988, is best remembered for his ghoulish proto-Goth “family." The Addams Family left a distinct mark on pop culture, having been featured in a successful 1960s television series, two films, and the current Broadway musical, which is a sponsor of the exhibition.
The cartoonist also penned thousands of other illustrations, many of them detailing the city he came to love as an art student. “The real and the surreal meet in these streets as imagined by Charles Addams,” notes the exhibit’s curator Sarah Henry. “The dense depiction hides for a moment what the joke is. And you have to search for it. Your eye sees this apparently normal cityscape, and then finds the thing that’s incongruous, unlikely, surreal.”
The show features classic examples of Addams' work, such as a crocodile coming out the manhole, as well as the Addams Family assembled on the roof of their Gothic manse, about to pour boiling goo on Christmas carolers.
Kevin Miserocchi, executive director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, which helped organize the exhibit, says the prankster scene is signature of Addams' work and personality. “He was a very mature boy,” Miserocchi says.
As for Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley and the rest—Henry says they are characteristic of Addams’ love of transgression and inversion. “They are the nuclear family—only, utterly bizarre.”
Click above to listen to an interview with the exhibition’s curator, Sarah Henry.
Browse a slide show from Charles Addams’s New York below.