Even if some of us pay little attention to it, typography — whether deliberately unnoticeable or at its most beautiful — is an art. And for the 36 Days of Type project, which invited graphic artists and designers to design one letter or number each day, the Madrid-based design studio CESS created a typeface inspired by modern art itself: the adorably named Artphabet, a striking, mostly hand-designed project that also serves as a lesson in 20th- and 21st-century art.
The featured pop and modern artists lend themselves well to alphabet letters. Sometimes they get captioned as in a children’s book: “A is for Andy Warhol” (a soup can dented enough for the apex of an A); “D is for Damien Hirst” (a shark in a vitrine, swimming from one half of the D to the next, à la “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”); a shiny, “J for Jeff Koons” balloon animal. Not every letter corresponds with the given artist’s name — there’s a “Q” inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a “U” inspired by Henri Matisse, and those are uniquely lovely, too.
César Cid, creative director at CESS, told Hyperallergic over email that while much of his work “focuses on lettering and 3D typography,” this typeface “has been a very experimental work, since the variety of the compositions was considerable to cover so many different styles.” Indeed, the form of the project mimics its content. “With this project,” he explained, “I have dared to ‘imitate’ some artists painting textures by hand, as if it were a brush, but digitally.”
But did Cid know the project would be appealing enough to prompt the interest of any art-lover, even veritable design dummies (like arts writers), or make for a wonderful, say, children’s book? “When I started working on the project, I hardly thought of a tool beyond visual enjoyment,” he said, “but when I was working on it, I realized the great didactic potential that the alphabet could have.” CESS is currently approaching other options “or platforms to export them, such as impressions, collectibles, and even a great adventure to make a small book.” No guarantees, though — for now, just marvel at the contortion of some of the world’s most recognizable work into gorgeous lettering.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Cute. But also another example, for women arguing for more inclusion into the history of art, about the institutionalized absence of women artists. Frida Kahlo. And who else? The silence (as usual) is deafening.
I’m not saying that this is anything serious enough–by a long shot–to care about, but just another telling example of what filters into the general public’s understanding of what art is notable, and what gets ignored.
U is for Paolo Uccello, Urs Fischer, Ulay,
Utagawa Hiroshige, Utrillo … Matisse?
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