The artistic interpretations of English's 26 letters here will astound and confound you
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., July 17, 2009
through Aug. 9
Stark marks erect the architecture of written thought and speech: Alphabet. There is, of course, the pedestrian example of what embodies the sentence you're reading now. Pedestrian yet perfectly functional, especially given its current restrictions of size (small) and substrate (cheap newsprint, unless you're scanning this online), and, if sufficiently enlarged and provided the proper setting, able to be appreciated for the abecedarian beauty it is. Top o' the morning to you, Franklin Gothic, you're looking lovely this day!
There are also, not as a matter of course but as a matter of special consideration and industry, examples of alphabet-rendering (typography, the elitists call it) that are to this utilitarian text what the Grand Canyon is to the ditch that used to be in Aldus Manutius' backyard. Now, yes, that ditch was hand-wrought and served a specific human purpose, and the Grand Canyon just grew and serves an environmental function, but we're talking looks here, so switch those attributes in your mind while you wander into the back gallery of Domy Books.
Fifty-one artists and designers from around the world have interpreted the solid 26 letters of English in ways that will delight and astound you, perplex and confound you, and examples of their artistry are printed oversize in deepest black on fine white paper for this touring show from Post Typography and Artscape. Now they're framed upon all four walls of Domy's secondary space and overflowing into that venue's main room. What you'll see ranges from the photo-images of found or manufactured objects (Andrew Byrom's series of welded steel-frame tables and chairs that, captured from the appropriate angle, become letters) to handcrafted alphabets evoking spray paint, board games, ballet dancers, culinary equipment, and many permutations of the iconic letterforms themselves. The styles in this relentlessly monochrome swath of creation stretch from extremes of indecipherable minimalism to seemingly OCD-inspired maximal – some of these alphabets must have taken days and days to render with pen and ink – and provide viewers with a spectrum of lettristic creation, an array of possibilities that may be helplessly recalled whenever you next encounter the printed word.
If this brief review spurs you to go see the exhibition, then you're not immune to the potential brilliance of graphic design in general. (Is anyone, really?) So note, please, that you'll have to walk through the retail interior of Domy Books in order to enter the gallery – and you might be tempted to purchase more of the store's colorful wares than your budget allows. If necessary, follow the kind suggestion of Domy proprietor Russell Etchen (who arranged this show with local design powerhouses Little Mule Studio and Decoder Ring Design Concern): "You can always leave your wallet in the car."