Friday, February 27, 2015

Catching Grimm Shadows - The Art of Andrea Dezsö (Now Showing in NY)

Left: Fairy tale silhouettes created for the Complete First Edition translation, Right: Andrea Dezsö self portrait
For lucky New Yorkers (and those visiting before the end of March) there is a very special solo exhibition you need to put on your "must see" list, that just opened (February 21st, 2015) at the Nancy Margolis Gallery. Much of the art was created specifically for Grimm's fairy tales and the artist is Andrea Dezsö.
If you're not familiar with the name Andrea Dezsö it's probably not because you haven't seen her work. You have; especially if you're a regular reader of this blog. One of her most recent projects was completing twenty different illustrations for Jack Zipes new translation of the Grimm's First Edition (twenty-one, including the cover) and these special pieces are a large part of the gallery showing.
(Oh to see these in person!)

Her silhouettes communicate a raw folk-like quality like the unvarnished tales they accompany.

And Ms. Dezsö is not new to getting to the heart of a subject, nor to folktales and fairy tales either. Her self-portrait (see the head of the post) illustrates just how important a theme this is to the artist, showing the essence, the true tale, inside something, or someone. It should come as no surprise that she's often called on for editorial work as a result.
Although am award winning illustrator and known for her distinctive silhouette work (something I find truly interesting - showing the outline to show the inside..), it becomes quickly apparent this artist isn't limited to any one medium at all. While she does work with paper, she also uses etched glass, mosaics (small and wall+ sized!), paint, ceramics, puppets, animation, mixed media sculptures, giant public murals ad site-specific art, stainless steel sculptures... pretty much anything she seems to be able to get her hands on. 

I don't know if the term was coined before she made it popular but Dezsö is also known for her "tunnel books" and "tunnel installations". A recent and extremely popular exhibition had people walking inside of giant cut outs, lit in different sections, as if one were walking through a story. 

Often she returns to books and to tales and folktales, the theme often returning to looking at the inside and of seeing through layers. More recently, and included in the Nancy Margolis Gallery exhibition, is a new form of tunnel one, one in which she translated her tunnel book technique to glass! 

(Seriously: any one want to sponsor me a ticket to see this? Please?)

Of creating the Grimm tale illustrations Dezsö says:

"I wished to find the heart of each tale and express it visually. My aim was to create a feeling of atmosphere that could convey a strong sense of place and I wanted the drawings to look like made-up folk art, instead of simply relying on details from the region or period."
"I chose tales to illustrate that gave me immediate, strong mental images as I read them. The images that popped into my mind first are generally what I illustrated. Using silhouettes leaves room for the reader’s imagination; not everything is concrete, it’s more a conjured world of dreams, in the same way that the Grimms' tales invite in the reader."

Here is an excerpt from the gallery's press release for the show:
February 21 through March 28, 2015.
Inventive, brilliant, undaunted by complexity or scale mixed media artist Andrea Dezsö, masters a multitude of materials to execute numerous projects ranging from intimate graphite drawings, book illustrations, magnificent mosaics, paper tunnel books, large ink drawing, sandblasted glass, subway murals, colored marker on paper, a long list reflecting Dezsö’s exceptional capacity to take on any challenge regardless of medium.
Growing up in communist Romania, Dezsö found art and literature allowed an escape from the rigid limitations the regime imposed on the lives of people. Absorbed, introspective, Dezsö took control of her life by creating her own worlds filled with wishful flights to charmed lands of dark beauty, and haunting iconography. Dezsö’s art, boundless, unrestrained blends a personal vision, contemporary sensibility with a touch of darkness born of Romanian/ Hungarian expression.
In the current exhibition Dezsö brings together many creative moments, some familiar, others more recent. Utilizing the flat glass technique learned during a two week 2014 residency at Pilchuck Glass Dezsö succeeded in transposing the layering concept used in her popular paper tunnel books into multi layers of glass panels to form a tunnel book, ”Girl and Devil in Underwater Cave”, and four, one-of-a-kind single flat glass panels sandblasted with lively pictorial scenes.

While visiting Hawaii in 2014 Dezsö made a series of marker drawings and one long drawing 112” x 36.75” made with marker, latex paint, ink, and collage. An exciting addition to the upcoming exhibition are the illustrations Dezsö was commissioned to do for the Princeton University Press publication of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Translated and edited by Jack Zipes.

It sounds amazing and hearing from people who have seen her work in person - it's rave reviews all round, something to be experienced that doesn't completely translate to a flat image on a computer screen. Hopefully one day I'll be lucky enough to get to see these in person.

These bowls - they're just wonderful!

I strongly recommend you peruse Ms. Dezsö's website. You'll see folktale references and fairy tale references throughout, including some originals of her own making. All are touching, some are raw, some are stunningly beautiful... and I envy the people who take the subway where those gorgeous stainless steel railings are installed and where her mosaics and other public art brighten up the tunnels! You can also keep up to date on the many exhibits and activities of this busy artist through her page on Facebook HERE.

For a quick overview I've started putting together a Pinterest page where you can see a variety of her work at a glance. I predict you will not be able to "just glance" though, but will go for a further journey to closer... she's good at helping us do that.

Fairy tale bonus of the day:
You may also recognize Ms. Dezsö's art from the book cover Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge that was published last year. Here's a promotional video that includes some of Ms. Dezsö's work from the darker side (don't watch right before bed!):
Writing in free verse honed to a wicked edge, the incomparable Ron Koertge brings dark and contemporary humor to twenty iconic fairy tales.


  1. Oh wow, thank you for sharing this! I want to see that exhibit too!

  2. I love this book (best Xmas gift of the year!), and Ms. Dezsö's illustrations are brilliant, especially the ones for "The Godfather" and "The Golden Key." I wish each of the tales had an illustration by her!

  3. Got this book for Christmas. Love her illustrations.