The Tyranny of the Alphabet Book

  • Posted on Sep 05, 2012 by

A is for A show I just Assembled About Artists' Alphabet books. Each letter of the Alphabet is represented by A book. You'll be Amazed how many different ways that Artists interpret the ABCs.

B is for the Books, of course. They were fun to Bring together. One of my favorites is by Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré. Une Méthodologie de la nouvelle écriture africaine, “Bété;” L'Alphabet de l'ouest africain (A Methodology of the New African Writing, "Bété,” Alphabet of West Africa) (Paris: One Star Press, 2003). In 1956, Bruly-Bouabré created a writing system for the Bété people of the Ivory Coast. This is a facsimile of a version hand-written in a repurposed datebook.

C is for Century of the Child, the Current MoMA exhibition that inspired the show. There you Can sit at a Child-sized Alvar Aalto table and Clasp another book I really like. It's called The Cubies' ABC by Mary Mills Lyall and Earl Hargvey Lyall. (New York: Putnam, 1913. Reprint, 2010). It satirizes the 1913 Armory Show, a controversial exhibition downtown. For most American viewers, modern art--especially Cubism--was a new and uncomfortable idea. The Lyall's take is more forward thinking, recognizing that  “F's for the Future for which Cubies hanker . . . they give up the past without envy or rancor.”

The show has other books from the Library and Museum Archives, such as Hurra, wir rechnen weiter! (Hurray! We Keep Counting!) (Berlin: Stuffer, 1932). Once the show is over, stop by the Library and we'll bring it out for you.

D is for Do come and see both shows. Artists' Alphabets is up at the Cullman Building through October 22. Century of the Child, in the Museum's Sixth Floor galleries, is on view through November 5.

Jennifer Tobias, Reader Services, Museum of Modern Art Library

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