Curated by the museum's Executive Director John Shipman, this exhibition explores how contemporary illustrators create exciting, informative, and bold new works that push beyond the traditional means illustrators have used to convey a narrative or editorial assignment.
Shipman states that the 20 artists featured in Grand Vocabulary "demonstrate how contemporary illustration can be innovative by pushing the boundaries of traditional assignments. These artists blur the line between fine art and illustration, refining the craft and reflecting the ways we are increasingly visually engaged in multiple mediums." The exhibition includes works from Delaware College of Art and Design faculty member Alexi Natchev and University of Delaware faculty member David Brinley, as well as illustrated poetry from recently retired Delaware Poet Laureate JoAnn Balingit.
Grand Vocabulary demonstrates the increasing freedom contemporary illustrators are given to push their craft, as art directors and others commissioning their work recognize the value and talent of the artists they work with. Among other themes, the exhibition reflects a resurgence in illustrated reporting, seen in Molly Crabapple's pieces about the current race-related conflicts in the US, and the work of Peter Wadsworth, who was contracted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to create a series of illustrations for the 50th anniversary of the smallpox vaccine.
For Shipman, Grand Vocabulary fits into a larger goal of highlighting the Brandywine region, home to Howard Pyle and the Wyeths, as the birthplace of American illustration. Grounded in this history, the show is a vibrant exploration of the continuing evolution, importance, and accessibility of illustration in contemporary contexts.