Lee Lorenz knows what you look at first when The New Yorker arrives, and it's not "Talk of the Town."
"You have to sort of plan to read The New Yorker because there's so much in it," he says. "But even writers will grudgingly and sadly admit that 'yes, I read the cartoons first.' "
Lorenz, a cartoonist who is art director of The New Yorker, is responsible for selecting the art in every issue of the magazine -- covers, inside illustrations, those little "spot drawings" sprinkled in the copy and, of course, the cartoons. He looks at every single submission -- "two thousand five hundred drawings a week," he says.
He's been The New Yorker's art director for 15 years. The magazine itself is 62; its tradition of illustrations will be celebrated with "The Art of The New Yorker: A 60-Year Retrospective" at the Corcoran Gallery, 17th Street and New York Avenue NW, beginning Saturday. Though Lorenz says he is a bit allergic to nostalgia ("it's my own anxiety; it's so easy to dwell on the past"), he hopes the retrospective will produce laughter and show that The New Yorker is still funny after all these years.
The magazine is known for its original art covers. "Covers are useful if they stand out on the newsstand," Lorenz says. "But the magazine should fit comfortably in people's homes because it's going to be around for a while. You should be able to enjoy it after the initial impact." And what does he hope that impact will be? "A rush of feeling. Pleasure," he says.
He also hopes that people will begin to recognize cartoons as a legitimate popular art form -- "works that use humor as the hook that draws you into an idea, that make a special point in an extraordinarily economical way."
Thursday evening at 6, Lorenz and New Yorker cartoonist George Booth will discuss their work in the gallery's Hammer Auditorium. A reception and a sneak preview of the exhibition will follow. A few tickets may still be available today. Admission is $5; call 638-3211, Ext. 322.
The traveling exhibition of 105 original cartoons and cover illustrations, which have been lent either by the artists or collectors, will be on view through April 17. Admission is free.