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Building Books: The Art of David Macaulay

November 13, 2004 - May 30, 2005



(above: From "Ship" ©1993 David Macaulay)


A scintillating new exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum showcases the original drawings, paintings, and studies of best-selling author and illustrator David Macaulay. His gift for conveying complex concepts in a fun and understandable way has delighted children and adults for years. He has a special genius for explaining the wonder of the way things work-from gadgets to gargantuan buildings-and for bringing readers on extraordinary journeys of the imagination. Building Books: The Art of David Macaulay is the first in-depth museum exhibition to explore the work and artistic process of this popular Rhode Island-based artist. (left: From "The New Way Things Work" ©1998 David Macaulay)

"David Macaulay is one of the most creative, innovative artists and thinkers working today. We are privileged to be presenting the first major exhibition of his career," says Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum.

The exhibition presents a diverse range of exhibition materials, including over 100 original works of art, studies, sketchbooks, book dummies, manuscripts and correspondence, artifacts (including hand-built ship models), stuffed specimens, reference materials, travel mementos, and a video documentary about the artist, produced for the exhibition by the Museum. Macaulay's books bring together the worlds of art, history, science and fantasy and include The Way Things Work, The New Way Things Work, Unbuilding, Cathedral, Castle, City, Mill, Ship, Mosque, Rome Antics, Angelo, Black and White, and Shortcut.

"David Macaulay's work inspires discovery by demystifying an increasingly complex world while celebrating the places the imagination takes us when we least expect it," says exhibition curator and Associate Director for Exhibitions and Programs Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. "We are very pleased to present the work of an American artist who has made such outstanding contributions as a visual communicator." (right: From "Cathedral" ©1999 David Macaulay)

The exhibition has been divided into three significant aspects of Macaulay's work: "Big Ideas," "Building Ship: Exploring the Artist's Process," and "Journey Books: The Evolution of Ideas."

"Big Ideas" explores the mechanics of everyday objects, the construction of the world's most complex architectural structures, and the intricacies of the human body. Viewers will learn about Macaulay's evolution as an artist and his innate desire to understand and explain how and why objects and structures come to be. Dramatic, original drawings from such classic books as The Way Things Work, Mill, City, Underground, Unbuilding, Pyramid, Mosque, and Cathedral, will be featured.
"Building Ship: Exploring the Artist's Process" examines the creation of a book from concept, research, and preliminary layouts to finished art and text. Through images and artifacts relating to David Macaulay's 1993 book Ship, about boat building and maritime archaeology, this section of the exhibition offers insights into the artist's creative process through ship models, artifacts, studies, drawings, photographs, and finished art.
"Journey Books: The Evolution of Ideas" looks at the unpredictable and often frustrating nature of the evolution of ideas. Original paintings, drawings, sketches, book dummies and manuscripts will be presented from works inspired by Macaulay's love of travel and his appreciation for journeys of the imagination, including Rome Antics, Angelo, Shortcut, Why the Chicken Crossed the Road, Baaa, and Black and White.


About the artist:

As a young boy in Lancashire, England, David Macaulay was fascinated by the way objects are made and how they operate. Out of cigar boxes, he constructed elevators. Using yarn, he made intricate systems of moving cable cars. In 1988, using his remarkable talents for translating concepts and information to the printed page, he was asked to illustrate The Way Thing Work: From Levers to Lasers. Macaulay has since expanded the book to include digital technology. The artist's books have sold two million copies in America and have been published in a dozen languages, and Cathedral, Castle, and Pyramid have been made into popular PBS television programs. Macaulay is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Caldecott Medal and Honor Awards.


Wall and label text from the exhibition:

Big Ideas! Looking at Architecture with David Macaulay
Building Ship: The Artist's Process
Journey Books: The Evolution of Ideas

Exhibition checklist

The exhibition, on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum through May 30, 2005, has been made possible by a generous gift from Peter and Helen Bing.


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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.