Visitors to the exhibition can enjoy more than 30 original illustrations from nine picture books, along with a selection of hard-to-find first editions. On view are several examples of Chwast’s unconventional book constructions in which he breaks from the standard 32-page picture book. Keeping Daddy Awake on the Way Home from the Beach (1986) folds out into a sweeping panoramic story that measures six feet long while Paper Pets (1993) invites readers to cut and fold three-dimensional paper-toy animals and story characters. The book Traffic Jam (1999) contains a spectacular six-panel center gatefold. And Tall City, Wide Country (2013) asks children to read the book both horizontally and vertically, depending on the story’s setting.
Chwast’s first attempts at making “books where things happen” were the lift-flaps he created in Mother Goooooose and Limerickricks, two collections of classic nonsense rhymes published in 1971. Chief Curator Ellen Keiter is excited to showcase this playful side of Chwast’s career. “The exhibition looks at the artist’s creativity from a new angle. Fans of Chwast’s graphic work will find that he approaches children’s books with the same humor, bold colors, and love for typography found in his commercial art.”
Chwast lent his design expertise to the gallery layout and graphics and Keither says it was important to him that the exhibition should bring three-dimensionality into the space. This includes the construction of a video tower (guarded over by a Paper Pet), an accordion book structure built to display The Alphabet Parade (1991), and a guessing game from Where’s My Cat? (2022). Outside the gallery is a visitor photo-op inspired by Moonride (2000).
Chwast claims that if his career in graphic design hadn’t worked out, he would have opened a candy store.