Friday, December 23, 2016

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art


Written by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.  Picture Book Biography.

Young Vasya Kandinsky rolls his eyes with boredom when limited by the societal expectations of his Russian upbringing.  But when his aunt gives him a box of paints, he hears the colors whisper and hiss as he mixes them.  His dull existence is suddenly infused with energy.  Painting bold shapes creates a symphony in his mind, but those around him struggle to understand his art, and he reverts to the static subjects of realism.  Ultimately, though, Kandinsky embraces his passion for the abstract and revolutionizes the art world.

 Rosenstock expertly describes Kandinsky's likely case of synesthesia.  Onomatopoeia abounds with swishing brushes, hissing paints, and a symphony of shapes.  GrandPré's acrylic and paper collage illustrations are integral to the story's success, moving from the gray-brown existence of Kandinsky's boredom, to the bright and colorful energy of his art uncontained by the canvas.  GrandPré encourages exploration with rich textures that infuse every detailed page and a small, caged bird that gives clues about the state of Kandinsky's mind and spirit.  Fans of her work in the Harry Potter series will recognize the similarity in style.  A solid introduction to the abstract art movement.

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