The crowd last Thursday at the D'Adamo/Woltz Gallery looked like the crowd in Charles Saxon's 1966 New Yorker cover depiction of an art gallery opening: colorfully dressed, tipsy, slightly vacant. Everyone also looked rich, except for a pair of guys who were holding hands and a few sweaty, downtrodden women. It was packed. The bucket of ice at the bar was rapidly becoming a bucket of water. Eventually, dozens of people decided to take their conversations (and their New Yorker gift bags) outside. They stood chatting around a Lincoln Mercury hybrid SUV that had been parked between two trees. A man in a suit explained that Lincoln Mercury was a sponsor. He looked at me and then at my friend, dressed in cool pink, and said, in reference to me, "Can't you see him behind the wheel?"

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Each New Yorker cover on display inside the gallery had a placard next to it that sometimes provided useful historical context but usually provided a tight explanation of what you were supposed to think ("American vitality is illustrated in this image of snow and water-skiers..."). The New Yorker somehow manages never to insult its readers' intelligence, and sometimes publishes, probably with glee, incomprehensibly oblique cartoons. But in this exhibit, Saul Steinberg's masterful 1976 orange and white landscape of the world west of Ninth Avenue, for example, in which New York City streets are sharp and detailed and the rest of the hemisphere, stretching into the distance, is approximate (with few locations noted, like Kansas City and Japan), is accompanied by this: "The imaginative atlas of Saul Steinberg evoked intriguing landscapes of the mind and spirit that invariably offered cultural insights and perspectives not to be found in the traditional maps and legends of Rand and McNally." That's right, I guess, but those big-sounding conjunctive phrases are so feeble in the presence of the drawing itself. Hauling out that language to glorify an obviously glorious drawing is like explaining a punch line.

A friend of a friend saw the placards when we first arrived and said, instinctively, "Oh, how Seattle," even though the placards weren't Seattle at all. It was a traveling show, advertised in the May 23 issue of the magazine, here for just 10 days. (It's already come down.) I saw it twice. The covers were, as you would expect, impressive: bold, mysterious, topical, deadpan, classical, lively, etc. Mona Lisa with Monica Lewinsky's face; dancing buildings; men preparing Thanksgiving dinner while women watch TV; a sailor kissing another sailor in Times Square; a World War II soldier returning home to his wife and child (horribly, the placard for this cover began, "Who's your daddy?"). And, near the door, the one titled "New Yorkistan," a relatively recent cover in which the city is divided into new neighborhoods like Botoxia and Gaymenistan. Someone looking at it mentioned that this drawing is now available as a shower curtain. Might go well with a new SUV.

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