Dry Jewish Humor Informs Irving Penn's Photos (on view at Art Institute of Chicago)

Iving Penn. 'Underfoot' exhibit view. Photo/Menachem Wecker
Iving Penn. 'Underfoot' exhibit view. Photo/Menachem Wecker

Irving Penn’s photographic series depicting gum caked to the pavement and discarded matches and cigarettes offers a unique perspective on urban life.

The 36 photos in the series “Underfoot” (1999–2001), which are on view at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of “Irving Penn: Underfoot,” portray larger-than-life litter. Matches resemble two-by-fours, and gum reads, at times, as faces, skulls or brains. Most of the “faces” are centered on the page, but some have more exciting compositions.

Some “portraits” appear to smirk; one seems to stick out its tongue; another winks. One could even double as a profile view of a pig, while others look like scarier versions of Krang from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Read more.

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