April 15 through June 23, 2008
International Poster Gallery is proud to announce A Century of Modernist Posters, an exhibition of outstanding selections from the gallery's extensive holdings of Modernist twentieth-century graphic design. It traces the rapid development after 1900 of Modernism which blossomed over the course of the century into a wide variety of styles.
The new century, like those preceding it, brought a fresh examination of stylistic possibilities. In France, Art Nouveau's floral excesses gave way to the brilliant metaphors of Cappiello which used a psychological approach to creating brand identities. In Scotland's Glasgow School and Austria's Vienna Secession, and later in Germany and England, Art Nouveau yielded to flat shapes and geometrical designs. A fine example of this simplified and functional approach is Wilhelm Dachauer's Secession poster of 1919.
Such early modernist efforts would serve as the foundation for the German Plakatstil, or Poster Style, led by Lucian Bernhard in pre-World War I Berlin and in Munich by Ludwig Hohlwein. Bernhard created the first Object Poster, consisting solely of a product and brand name. Using only flat colors and shapes, Bernhard's work marked the next stage in creating an abstract - and modern - visual language. Our cover poster by Danish artist Sven Henrikksen for a gas exhibition is one of several included examples of work by Bernhard and his contemporaries.
After World War I, graphic design would be revolutionized by the Machine Age and the modern art movements that arose in response to it, primarily Cubism and its offshoots (Futurism, Vorticism and Suprematism), Dada, Expressionism, and Surrealism. The show contains the Stenberg Brothers' aggressive Constructivist design of 1926 for a magazine and the Bauhaus-inspired design by Stoecklin for a Swiss City Planning exhibit in 1928.
Ultimately, the Machine Age vocabulary of speed, power and precision would coalesce in a new international decorative movement called Art Deco. Shaped by a wide variety of graphic influences, forms became abstract and streamlined, and poster artists truly became poster designers. In Paris, A.M. Cassandre's posters of speeding trains and towering ocean liners would become icons of the period. The exhibition includes several Art Deco masterpieces by Colin, Morach, Seneca, Loupot and Cassandre, including his highly abstract Heemaf, for a Dutch power supplier.
After World War II, the poster declined in many countries as magazines and television became potent competitors. In Switzerland, however, the poster continued to evolve with the development of a new graphic style with roots in the Bauhaus. Known as the International Typographic Style, or Swiss Style, it relied on typographic elements in black and white. Perfected at design schools in Zurich and Basel, the style was based on a mathematical grid, with strict graphic rules and stark photography, all to provide a clear and logical structure. Becoming the leading graphic design style worldwide in the '70s, it continues to exert a strong influence today.
The show includes several mid-century Modernist pieces by Hofmann, Muller-Brockmann and others. It then concludes with several Post Modern designs from the Eighties and Nineties, which break the strict rules of the Swiss Style. Notable are the Swiss works of Weingart, Schraivogel, Troxler and Tissi, and the American designs of Milton Glaser and British-born Peter Gee.