Books On Books Collection – Arial Robinson

The Modern Day Black Alphabet (2020)

The Modern Day Black Alphabet (2020)
Arial Robinson
Casebound. Paper over boards. H290 x W220 mm. 64 pages. Acquired from Amazon, 24 June 2021.
Photos of the book: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

Arial Robinson is a multidisciplinary artist based in North Carolina. Her photography captures the air, sky, suburban streets and heat of the state, and her book captures its Black community in a way that pushes through any “White gaze” that it encounters.

Letter A’s pair of looks — one coolly appraising its viewer and the other warmly smiling but outlined off center in white ink — begins the push with subtlety. The dual images of “Z is for safe Zone”– addressing the viewer with a Stop sign graffitied “Black Kids Only” and a young girl forming a letter Z with her bike, occupying the whole street under a Carolina blue sky — end it more directly.

Between A and Z, The Modern Day Black Alphabet primarily addresses young Black readers, celebrates them eating a popsicle, studying, cooking or drinking from a spigot and takes pride in taking care of appearances — especially hair and dress. Throughout, most of the double-page spreads have an edginess. Sometimes it’s an edgy, out-loud humor, as in “O is for Outside” with its can of “air freshener” labeled “You Smell like Outside”. Sometimes it’s the loud-quiet edginess of “X is for eXcellence” which juxtaposes a pile of certificates of accomplishment with a black-jacketed self-portrait and lapel pin that reads “We Call BS”. Always it’s the edginess of an artist in control of technique, material and vision directing her gaze on herself and her world.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Tia Blassingame“. 17 August 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Wendy Ewald“. 15 May 2023. Books On Books Collection.

Ursula Hochuli-Gamma“. 18 November 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Tupoka Ogette“. 15 May 2023. Books On Books Collection.

Clarissa Sligh“. 2 September 2020. Books On Books Collection.

Allah, Saladin. 21 February 2021. “Animation Series: The Modern Day Black Alphabet“. Accessed 1 April 2023.