Critics’ Picks

Scott Teplin, Cover of The Clock Without a Face, 2009, pen, ink, and watercolor on paper, 22 x 22.”

New York

Scott Teplin

Adam Baumgold Gallery
60 East 66th Street
May 13–June 12

In 1979, English artist and author Kit Williams introduced a new literary genre, the “armchair treasure hunt,” via his children’s book Masquerade. Woven into a sequence of fifteen intricate illustrations were clues to the whereabouts of a golden hare, buried by Williams somewhere in Britain and offered to the first reader to solve the complex puzzle. A little over thirty years on, Scott Teplin has pulled a similar stunt in The Clock Without a Face (2009), a book that also contains a set of coded directions to a glittering prize—in this case a set of twelve gold numerals. Teplin collaborated with writers Mac Barnett and Eli Horowitz to craft a labyrinthine whodunit set in a multistory apartment block, the Ternky Towers of this exhibition’s title.

The illustrations on view here lift the roof off each floor of the building to reveal a range of interiors linked to the characters in Teplin’s drama. These are always absorbing and frequently bizarre; one incorporates a miniature jungle, another a water-filled room navigated by a fleet of miniature submarines. There are giant hamster tubes and mad scientists’ labs, a hunting lodge and a classical museum. All are lovingly rendered with the clean lines and childlike love of detail shared by popular illustrators like Martin Handford and highbrow favorites such as Chris Ware. There are connections to be made with literary forebears, too—think of 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier, the fictitious Parisian immeuble d’habitation that is the setting for Georges Perec’s 1978 La Vie mode d’emploi (Life: A User’s Manual). Whether or not one’s eyes are on the prize, Teplin’s project is a joy.