November 24, 2008

Stephen Johnson Honored by New York Times

Stephen Johnson's book, A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet, was chosen as one of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books of 2008.

You can see a slideshow of their 11 picks here. You might recognize a few from the recent Original Art Show at Society of Illustrators.

The NY Times also reviewed the book along with two others which push the alphabet format into more sophisticated territory. Of "A Is for Art" the review says:

"For a magnificent medley of works produced over many years, some on a huge scale, read Stephen T. Johnson’s 'A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet,' one of this year’s winners of a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award. Johnson has works in prominent collections, and New Yorkers may know his 66-foot mural in the DeKalb Avenue subway station. In the author’s note he explains this project: 'For the past six years I have been exploring the English dictionary, selectively choosing and organizing particular words from each letter of the alphabet and, based solely on the meanings of the words, developing a visual work of art. I took ordinary objects and made them unfamiliar, removing functionality in order to reveal their potential metaphorical associations, which can lead in turn to overlapping and sometimes paradoxical meanings.' The art is also just plain fun to look at. The colors and materials are eye-popping, and Johnson hides a letter in each of the 26 pieces.

One work, “Dotty Diptych,” is made of nearly 2,700 white and black dominoes; dots in the right-hand panel of white dominoes form a tricky letter D. This is a grown-up’s alphabet, but for children it is also a whimsical introduction to the realm of abstract art."

Incidentally, this is the second time Johnson has had a picture book on the Best Illustrated Books list. The first was Alphabet City. When asked about his fondness for conceptualizing the alphabet, Stephen says "Indeed, I do have many more alphabet book ideas...!"

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