Book Review: Silhouettes from Popular Culture by Olly Moss

Silhouettes from Popular Culture Cover

Silhouettes from Popular Culture © Titan Books 2012

Let’s not pull any punches. Silhouettes are boring, stuffy pieces of artwork. The only places you can usually find them are in the homes of older affluent folks, or those trying desperately to project the air of wealth. However, once you discover Silhouettes from Popular Culture by artist Olly Moss, you’ll never look at the medium the same way again. That’s because Moss’s debut hardcover is a game-changer for this type of art.

Instead of featuring nameless subjects or dry historical figures, Moss mines our favorite movies, television shows, and yes even video games from the last 50 years for silhouette fodder. To reveal who he gives the treatment to would spoil the thrill of seeing it yourself, although pop culture gurus should be delighted by the variety offered up in this book. Moss doesn’t hesitate to get obscure with his references, something that only adds to the hilarity of his concept.

What makes this hardcover unique isn’t just that Moss borrows characters from popular culture; it’s the way he playfully arranges them by using both pages to tell a story. Sometimes the silhouettes on opposing pages are characters from the same piece, other times they are different ones played by a single actor, and in select instances they can be different versions of the same character portrayed by different actors. These characters can be interacting directly or indirectly based on their placement. At certain points they’re facing one another, in others they’re facing away, and in a few spots, they are lined up going the same direction.

When necessary to create context, Moss adds his own clever design flourishes to the silhouettes like small splashes of color. There’s plenty of range to entertain you and a very sleek old-time look and feel to the book. The cover is made of a blue textured fabric, with gold etching for the title, and a raised silhouette that feels like it was hand-cut and pasted on.

Silhouettes from Popular Culture is brimming with cool pictures to keep you engaged, but it’s much more than just a typical coffee table book. Moss combines old-fashioned aesthetics with a postmodern sense of humor to create an experience that’s incredibly fun and interactive.

His book is a mind puzzle like a Rubik’s Cube, except infinitely less frustrating and easier for friends to play with at the same time. Even if you’re well-versed in pop culture it’s still tough to guess every single silhouette right. When you find ones that you don’t know immediately, it’s actually more stimulating because it gets you to use your powers of your imagination in order to figure out who it is.

The only slightly annoying thing about Silhouettes from Popular Culture is that there’s no answer key. But understandably, Moss is hoping for re-read value. He knows you’ll keep coming back after you absorb new movies, television, and video games to try to fill in the blanks. He definitely has me hooked.

Silhouettes from Popular Culture is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.

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