Art Books Cleveland Does the ABCs

Rachel Morris, Abecedarium.

Art Books Cleveland has had a busy 2023. Artists from our group have exhibited at Loganberry Books, the Beachwood Community Center, the Morgan Conservatory, Heights Arts, Seton Hill University, and many other venues.

As 2024 begins, we turn our attention to an Art Books Cleveland exhibit at BAYarts, titled ABC Does the ABCs: Explore the Alphabet by Art Books Cleveland. The show is based on the long history of the abecedarium as an art form encouraging not only the visual arts, but poetry, literature, and other creative arts as well.

According to the Cornell University Library, an abecedarium is an alphabet (of any language) that presents the letters in order, usually with a word or picture that starts with that letter and represents it.

Laura Martin, Phobia Abecedarium.

Although in common use we often think of abecedaria as educational books for children, they also have a centuries-long history that spans many cultures and includes an array of forms. Book artist, book historian, and visual culture theorist Johanna Drucker has noted that while words may be added or deleted from a given language, the letters used remain consistent.

A few examples from history offer a sense of the depth and breadth of interest in abecedaria in a variety of forms. Prior to World War I, Italy’s Futurist movement created a new alphabet with a goal of upending the status quo. In 1940, Gertrude Stein wrote an episodic poem based on the alphabet. In 1970, Hollis Frampton, an avant-garde filmmaker released a film on the alphabet titled Zorns Lemma, the product of six years of roaming New York City filming words starting with all the letters of the alphabet he encountered in the environment. New York poet Erik Schurink, in the tradition of Gertrude Stein, wrote a lengthy abecedarian poem designed to celebrate the presentation of a complete subject. Abecedaria have also been used to teach classes in disparate fields, including physics and others subjects not traditionally linked with the creative arts.

The BAYarts exhibit opens with a reception on February 9 and runs for a month. Please join us to explore the many ways in which the alphabet influences artists’ creativity. And if the exhibit captures your imagination, contact the organization by mail c/o Strong Bindery, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120 or by email at for meeting and membership information.

Kelly Pontini, ABC of India.

c/o The Morgan Conservatory
1754 East 47th StreetCleveland, Ohio 44103


ABC Does the ABCs: Explore the Alphabet by Art Books Cleveland, Opening reception February 3. On view at BAYarts, 28795 Lake Road, Bay Village.