ALPHABET CITY by Stephen T. Johnson


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In his first solo outing (he previously illustrated, among other titles, Robert San Souci's The Snow Wife, 1993), Johnson paints a series of images of objects and places in New York City that look like letters of the alphabet, from A to Z. Two ideas inform the book: The first is the style in which the paintings are done, an accomplished photo-realism; the second is a way of looking at the world through the lens of the alphabet, seeing letters as a man-made geometry. The artist effectively demonstrates just how far his vision can stretch in the fire escapes, water towers, streetlights, and traffic lights that form his alphabet. The layers of intended artifice are challenging--if not daunting. Johnson wants to show young readers the world around them, as it is, but instead of snapping photographs, he elevates the artifice first by painting pictures, then by making the pictures as close to photography as possible. It may be the ultimate feat or failure: Finding the man-made alphabet in the man-made urban landscape and rendering it in man-made representations, Johnson dazzles readers and prepares them for more eye-openers should he ever take a walk in the woods.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0140559043
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Viking