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Posts by Gabriella Radujko

Animals Spell Love—for more love in the world add words, pictures and type

by Gabriella Radujko on November 30th, 2016

If Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the early twentieth century founder of the Futurist movement in Italy were alive today, he would recognize the influence of his radical use of typography as a visual element in author/illustrator/designer David Cundy’s debut word and picture book, Animals Spell Love.

The process of turning a jumble of fonts into an animal (see illustration) was the starting point for the artist’s exploration of typography as a way to “make the world a better place” by writing a book about love.  This before-and-after illustration will give graphic designers as well as laypersons insights into how the author’s interest in language and alphabets became transformed into a book.

In Animals Spell Love, Cundy uses a novel approach to promoting discovery and appreciation of foreign languages by shaping animals out of letterforms which spell the word “love” or the phrase “I love you.”  Cundy features sixteen different languages from Czech to Amharic to Korean.

His exploration of the features of Amharic, for example, which has 231 letterforms (see image) was especially challenging, yet every one of them is shown on the spotted leopard, whose nose is heart-shaped.  Looking for hearts, which can be found in each animal vignette, encourages the reader’s playfulness, adding value to the puzzles and “word pictures” to elevate this picture book’s universal appeal.

Winking foxes, watercolored seahorses, and moonlit owls make allusions to art, poetry and cultures while animating the word love as it appears in multiple languages and alphabets.

Hands “speak” in the last spread, using American Sign Language to say, “I love you” with a diaphanous butterfly as the featured animal.  The book concludes with a world map of the languages included along with representative animals  plus an index of fonts and ornaments.

Cundy’s typographic artwork “augments the expressive force of words,” which refers to Marinetti’s aesthetic agenda a hundred years ago, beyond the “gorgeous” illustrations as described by his publisher, David R. Godine.  His hope that “the book conveys the importance of kindness, the fun of learning, and the wonder of diversity” is a welcome sentiment for the season.

The Original Art 36th Annual Exhibition at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators

by Gabriella Radujko on November 13th, 2016

Photo credit: Gabriella Radujko. "Trunk to Trunklet" Illustrator: Mandana Sadat; Author: Jorge Luján; Medium: ink, collage, digital; Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

The illustrations found in children’s picture books are the subject of the annual exhibition of The Original Art, no doubt so named because it describes not only the exhibition of original artwork but also the first art a child sees. Cross referencing illustrations from 132 picture books with copies of the corresponding books in metal racks in the center of the first floor gallery at the Society of Illustrators, through December 2016, makes for a unique, interactive experience.

The show is a testament to how adults and children long to be in the presence of special things. Visitors will invariably wonder why our regard for this art form, groundbreaking when it first appeared in the early 20th Century, perennially persists beyond childhood, with great affection and sentimentality.

Picture books appear to be quite powerful, physically connecting us to the real world as much as imaginary ones through visual literacy.  They synthesize emotions, organize information and give young and young adult readers the courage they need to handle their ever-changing lives.  At the same time, they remind us of art’s role in our early lives as children.

In The Story of Mankind, artist/illustrator Hendrik Willem van Loon writes that the first five years of a child’s life are mainly devoted to art, with music, in the form of cooing, as his/her first contribution.  Later, mud-pies become sculpture, with painting following with the use of chalk, paint and paper in exploration of the basic elements of shape which include the dot and circle family and the line family.

The role of art and the corresponding behavior of art making in human life, as described by scholar Ellen Dissanayake in Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why reaches even further back in human history when we “began deliberately to set out to make things special or extraordinary.” Dissanayake suggests that “making special” actually contributed to our survival as a species.

She also describes how art and ritual have much in common.  Both, she claims, are compelling, capturing and holding our attention; both affect us emotionally, bringing feelings into awareness.  They are deliberately nonordinary, stylized and “bracketed off” from real life.

Also, the activities of embellishing, patterning, juxtaposing, shaping and transforming while making art, which are described as part of her provocative argument, are very much on display in the stunning range of media and techniques used by the show’s artists.  These include acrylic and oil on paper, scratchboard and watercolor, watercolor and digital, gouache, pen-and-ink, collage, mixed-media, cut paper, etc., in a coherently curated show with a full color catalog.

Suggestions that we begin our lives as artists and grow up to “make special” to enhance our lives may be two important clues as to why a show about children’s book illustration will reward anyone who continues to appreciate the magic of  children’s picture books.

Expatriate Recommends Diaspora–April is National Poetry Month

by Gabriella Radujko on March 31st, 2013

Han Bing and friends, Art Basel, Miami, 2006/photographer unknown

I wrote my first poem after participating in poetry as a “good audience member” by attending the performances of  friends who were poets.  I was sharpening my ear for a style of poetry writing I prefer–work written to be performed rather than for the page. In celebration of National Poetry Month for this month’s Artcards Review,  I returned to earlier work which was inspired by interdisciplinary approaches to life, living, and learning–Expatriate Recommends Diaspora and the accompanying photograph is the result of those forces–transcribing an interview about its subject, Anthony Xavier Edwards, for artist Nathalie Latham, whom I met at Paris Photo in 2006 formed the content for the poem.  Later that year, I arrived at Art Basel, Miami, met artist Han Bing and his wife Maya Kovskaya (right of Han) pictured above, learned about his performance piece which become part of the movement “walking the cabbage”, and also learned of their friendship with Nathalie.  Poetry creates community and rewards minds with the imagination to see that everything signifies and that everything connects.

Expatriate Recommends Diaspora

Now Tony, dear, what do you call yourself?

Enthused, confused, stunned, besotted…and a designer Continue Reading More »

Ruscha Bookworks Roar @ New York Public Library : “Ed Ruscha Books & Co.” @ Gagosian Gallery

by Gabriella Radujko on March 12th, 2013

Photo:  Gabriella Radujko; reproduction of content on retired Edward Ruscha business card

There is no School of Edward Ruscha, but if there were, prerequisites would include an embrace of ambiguity and the spirit world–its students paraphrasing quotes such as these from his recent talk with Paul Holdengräber at the New York Public Library on March 6, 2013:

I have a deep need to make a book.

It doesn’t matter what it is about.

The idea for a book comes first.

As book artist, Ruscha challenged his interviewer and the audience.  There was puzzlement among the literati, perhaps, because as book readers, according to  Walter J. Ong, we humans are so literate that it is “difficult for us to conceive of an oral universe of communication or thought except as a variant of a literate universe”. Continue Reading More »

Powerless in Search of Sound @ MOMA’s NYC Street Scenes and Noises

by Gabriella Radujko on November 3rd, 2012

In a city made quiet due to power outages south of the thirties, it was an interesting choice to have sought out films exploring noise.  “A Cinema of Industrial Noise”, a series of four films shown at MOMA on Halloween included the twelve minute, 1929 film, NYC Street Scenes and Noises, which slowed time down so appreciably, it seemed twice as long. Continue Reading More »

The Autumnal Equinox and the Uni Project

by Gabriella Radujko on September 29th, 2012

photography © courtesy Sam Davol

Pop-ups–boutique, market or museum have entered the psyche of hip New Yorkers, but if you are really lucky, you will have experienced the pop-up library known as the Uni Project.

Part-library, part-performance space, the Uni Project, a portable library kiosk with curated cubes, popped up on a stretch of waterfront at the Gantry State Park in Long Island City, Queens on the first day of fall. The blustery weather wrestled with the portable bookshelves and seats, but passersby, especially the short, cute variety with parents hovering close by, intuitively browsed, read and celebrated books, played games and explored portable worm bins for indoor composting. Continue Reading More »

Photographs Not Taken: April is Poetry Month

by Gabriella Radujko on April 15th, 2012

Centrifuga, 2011 by Rafael Barrios © Gabriella Radujko

Photographs Not Taken

There are the photographs not taken

An aged, elegant couple
sitting on a 5th Avenue park bench just north of the Met
matching blue-tinted eyeglasses
serenity in their long couple-hood
a “biopic” of quiet seated before the volta

A widow living in a tenement built by Mussolini
tending to a crude distillery housed in a Mussolini granted garage
the quiet drip drip drip of slivovica welcoming visitors to sit
in the deplaned seats of the now defunct Jugoslavenski Aerotransport
Wearing a stained, but clean apron
this simple, yet noble woman, is unknowingly part of an image
solely recorded by grey matter

A recently slaughtered calf hangs from a hook on the ceiling of a farmer’s work room
slowly dripping its blood in anticipation of the butchering
Tiny raised glasses of herb-infused liqueurs toast the beast
foreshadowing the soon to be prepared tripe, stews and soups

And the pic formed by a talented, but short-sighted gallerist in a town house gallery
standing before walls once rioted with iconoclastic works
most resting in storage now, unseen, unaccompanied, and increasingly
unremarkable with their exile
Clean white crew neck T-shirt over standard Levi blue jeans
a nod to basic good taste and handsomeness
minus the scarred belly clothes would later hide

Untaken photographs, but photographs nonetheless.

Gabriella Radujko