Review of A Is For Art: An Abstract Alphabet, by Stephen T. Johnson


A Is For Art

An Abstract Alphabet

by Stephen T. Johnson

A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), New York, 2008.  42 pages.

Starred Review.

Here’s an alphabet book for adults!  Or teens.  Or children.  A Is For Art is amazing and thought-provoking and clever and playful all at once.

The illustrations are photographs of actual abstract art works.  The artist says,

“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.  I call these individual works ‘literal abstractions’ and the ongoing series An Abstract Alphabet….

“And just for fun, I have included the letter shapes of each letter of the alphabet in all the works.  Well, most anyway — you’ll see.

“For me, art, like language, is about discovery.  At its very best it can be moving, transcendent.  Or on a visceral level it can simply make one laugh out loud.  Art provokes, confounds, challenges, surprises, informs, rejuvenates, and stretches our way of seeing the world.  We cannot get enough of it.  So I hope that my work in this book will ignite and inspire dialogues about art, words, and ideas, which might quicken children and adults to generate creative associations and explore new ways of pulling abstractions out of the real.”

This book, left around, will pull people into delighted browsing.

My personal favorite was the sculpture for the letter M.  Here’s the explanation:

Meditation on the Memory of a Princess

“Motionless, a man-made, monochromatic magenta mass mimics multiple mattresses and makes a massive mound near a mini mauve marble.”

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