The Beat Reviews Yellow Yellow

“INDIE VIEW: Echoes of lost old worlds in ‘Rust Belt’ and ‘Yellow Yellow’” / The Beat / John Seven / May 8, 2019

This children’s book was originally published in 1970, long before this brand new reissue as part of Drawn & Quarterly’s Enfant imprint, well before Stamaty’s better-known work as a cartoonist. He’s enjoying a bit of a revival as his MacDoodle Streetcollection was just published by New York Review Comics. His art style is unmistakable — line drawings, typically of urban landscapes, that employ intentional clutter in evoking the overwhelming quality of the excitement evoked by cities, especially commercial areas with rampant signage and crowds of completely watchable people.

This is really Stamaty’s show. There’s really not much to read — Ash’s words amount to a few sentences and it’s a testament to Stamaty’s energy and imagination that he was able to transform them into Yellow Yellow.

In Stamaty’s hands, this dense drawing style provides a seemingly endless source of discovery for a visually-eager kid or the kid’s parent who going through the book with them. The New York Times review of the book in 1971 described it as “a city scene that Hieronymous Bosch would have enjoyed walking through,” though it might not have been gruesome enough for old Hieronymous.

But evoking Bosch points out that this is also a relic of another time when our tech was not shielding us from the space we moved in, but typically confined to indoors and we only had our eyes and minds to keep us occupied. There’s certainly still a lot to see in the world, and I’m sure that there are plenty of people who still see it, but Stamaty captures a time when the world was all there was, and a kid was not necessarily as savvy about all the hidden corners of it. In that kind of reality, every portion of the landscape was an opportunity to observe, explore, and discover — and not just isolated parts, but the whole damn vista.

The world back then was a crazy pile-on of things to be discovered, a pre-algorithmic free-for-all, and Stamaty’s work in Yellow Yellow well captures that overstimulating wonderland that, cliched or not to say, our phones and tablets have managed to obscure.

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