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Metamorphabets

A mini-retrospective of typographer Viktor Koen's object alphabets

by James Thorne in Culture on 23 March 2012

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Viktor Koen takes pictures of renaissance rapiers in museum corridors. He hordes images of salmon steaks, microscopes, beheaded dolls and nautilus shells. From the thousands of archived shots, the Greek typographical artist composes unique alphabets from layers of objects. The recently opened show "Metamorphabets" at The Type Director's Club looks back on five alphabets, numerous commissioned works and other pieces that compose the artist's production from 1998 to present. Koen's alphabets show a creativity, an obsession with type and a talent for finding language in the silence of objects.

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"Metamorphabets is a fascination with welding and squeezing images into letters and then coming up with a very illustrative version of an alphabet," says Koen. Setting out to build a new set, Koen often has a social or political angle to which he's trying to draw attention—"Warphabet" is a collection created entirely from arms, and his series "Toyphabet" plays with the notion of lost childhood, which he feels has been exacerbated by technology. "It's a schematic and typographical way to put issues in front of people in way that they might not expect," Koen explains.

Working from a wealth of individual images, Koen is able to crop, cut and color correct his materials into representational letters with a common aesthetic. His obsessive technique takes months to create a single alphabet, during which Koen reserves the early part of the morning to work through the technical details of letter creation and the afternoons for creative pursuits.

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Drawing from Greek, Hebrew and English alphabetic traditions, Koen's approach is understandably unique. His vision has earned him notable contracts, including the cover of The New York Times Book Review titled "The Politics of Science". His work for the cover earned him the monicker "Photoshop scribe" from Steven Heller, author of the Book Review's "Visuals" column.

Metamorphabets is on display at TDC through 30 April 2012.

The Type Director's Club
347 West 36th Street
Suite 603
New York, NY 10018

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