At the Brooklyn Public Library, some of the best material isn’t on the shelves — it’s on the walls.
“Drawn in Brooklyn,” a new exhibit at the library’s central branch, pulls from the pages of some of the best children’s books from the past decade (and some not even published yet) to highlight 34 illustrators who live and work in the borough.
“When you hear something like a Brooklyn-only show, you think it’s provincial or boosterism,” said John Bemelmans Marciano, a Red Hook based illustrator who curated the exhibit. “But Brooklyn really is the epicenter of the children’s publishing world.”
Marciano’s own works are among the over 100 featured, including his pieces for the Madeline series (his grandfather, Ludwig Bemelmans, is its creator). Other contributions come from children’s book award winners such as Leo and Diane Dillon (“Mother Goose — Numbers on the Loose”), Brian Selznick (“The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins”), Paul O. Zelinsky (“Awful Ogre Running Wild”), and Bryan Collier (“Dave the Potter”).
On their own, unaccompanied by any text or context, the pieces are bold, colorful and somewhat surreal. There’s Boris Kuliko’s illustration from “The Eraserheads” of a frightened pig covered in ink; John Nickle’s page from “Never Take a Shark to the Dentist,” where a professional pair of rabbits tend to a razor-toothed shark; Peter Brown’s ever-serious bull dog sitting at a computer in “Chowder,” with mouse in paw. Others look like commissioned portraits, from Brian Pinkney’s sparse, playful “Little Diva” to R. Gregory Christie’s commanding, depth-filled Bass Reeves from the cover of “Bad New for Outlaws.”
“I wanted to do a show that really celebrates the illustrations for the illustration’s sake,” said Marciano. “I also really wanted to have a good mix of people — illustrators who were very accomplished, people who were mid-career and ready to break out, and those just starting out. It’s in no way comprehensive, but shows the width and breadth of the people working here in Brooklyn.”
In addition to the stand-alone pieces, found hanging in the lobby, the exhibit features a “behind the scenes” component in its Youth Wing and site-specific installations in the upstairs balcony, where Aileen Leijten, Yunmee Kyong and Sophie Blackall have turned to their inspirations for inspiration, presenting dolls, papier mâché animals and an antique scrapbook for a 3-D component to the show.
Tuesdays and Thursdays at the library will also feature talks with the artists, so you can meet the faces behind the pictures.
“Drawn in Brooklyn” at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch [Flatbush Avenue at Eastern Parkway in Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, (718) 230-2100], now through Jan. 23, 2011. Artist talks on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am, with Bryan Collier up next on Oct. 26. For info, visit www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org.