Grand Vocabulary: Contemporary American Illustration explores the ways contemporary illustrators create exciting, informative, and bold new works that push beyond traditional ways of conveying a narrative or editorial assignment. Sometimes called “art for the people,” illustration is artwork that is created to be seen by general audiences in public contexts. Illustrations can be created in any medium and draw on diverse visual traditions and aesthetics.
In the last 10 to 15 years, traditional editorial spreads and book jackets have expanded to digital art and illustrated GIFs, and illustrations augmenting the surface of materials (such as furniture and clothing) can now be found on contemporary goods like skateboard and snowboard decks.
The best of contemporary American illustration can be found in comic book art, zines, animation, video games, advertising, rock posters, poetry broadsides, and a host of other outlets limited only by the inventiveness of the illustrators.
The artists highlighted in Grand Vocabulary demonstrate how contemporary illustration can be innovative by pushing the boundaries of traditional assignments. These artists blur the line between fine art and illustration, refining the craft and reflecting the ways the public is increasingly visually engaged in multiple mediums. The exhibition includes works from Delaware College of Art and Design faculty member Alexi Natchev and University of Delaware faculty member David Brinley, and illustrated poetry from recently retired Delaware Poet Laureate JoAnn Balingit.
Among other themes, the exhibition reflects a resurgence in illustrated reporting, seen in Molly Crabapple’s pieces about current race-related conflicts in the US, and Peter Wadsworth’s series of illustrations created for the 50th anniversary of the smallpox vaccine.
The exhibition also reflects The Delaware Contemporary’s commitment to community involvement: The show includes Press On: The Story of Peter Spencer, an illustrated book created by youth at Wilmington’s historic Mother African Union Church in a partnership program led by Artist in Residence Nanci Hersh.
Grounded in a Brandywine regional history of American Illustration, Grand Vocabulary is a vibrant exploration of the continuing evolution and importance of contemporary illustration.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.