Brillo - Pasadena Art Museum
Stenberg, Vladimir and Gyorgy
Open Subscription to the Journal New World, 1926.
Flugmaschinen - Werke, 1912.
The New York World's Fair, 1939.
Arts Menagers Grand Palais, 1933.
Nihon Buyo, 1981.
More than a century of graphic design innovation is on display this Fall, as seen through 50 poster classics that trace the medium's changing form from its birth in the Belle Epoque to Post-Modern poster experiments around the world today.
The color lithographic poster appeared around 1870 when the art world was struggling to adapt to the forces of industrialization. Large, full color posters for the first time could be mass produced, and artists searched for effective and "modern" ways to use the new medium. Over the decades, poster design evolved from a disorganized and complex jumble of text and illustration to a refined and universal language of design.
The exhibition begins fittingly with such masterpieces as Jules Cheret's remarkable Folies Bergere Loie Fuller (1893), which both looks back to the Rococo for inspiration and anticipates Art Nouveau in its flowing lines and sinuous patterns. Toulouse-Lautrec elevated the poster to a fine art form with posters such as Revue Blanche of 1897, influenced by Japanese woodblock prints. An array of Art Nouveau masterpieces is offered from TA Steinlen and Giovanni Mataloni to a rare, highly abstract work by Dutch artist J. Thorn Prikker, pictured at top.
After 1900, the avant-garde scene shifted to Germany, where a spare style that stripped a design of everything except the object and its brand name developed. An "Object Poster" for the men's store IF Reiser (c. 1910), is a fine example of the Berlin approach, which was diametrically opposed to the organic profusion of Art Nouveau. At the same time, Ludwig Hohlwein developed a powerful but more decorative approach in Munich, as seen in his 1912 Flugmaschinen - Werke.
The 1920s and 1930s were marked by the flowering of the many "isms" of Modern Art, such as Fauvism, Cubism and Constructivism, all of which strongly influenced poster design. On view are stunning examples of early Soviet film posters by masters such as the Stenberg Brothers. The preeminent figure of this era was A.M. Cassandre, whose sleek designs of towering ships and speeding trains are considered 20th Century icons. He assimilated his knowledge of avant-garde movements into a popular style often called the Machine Age Style, or Art Deco, which is widely represented in the show.
In addition, pioneering commercial use of photomontage is seen in Herbert Matter's All Roads Lead to Switzerland (1935) and Francis Bernard's elegant Arts Menagers of 1933. Switzerland's fascination with the Object Poster from the 1920s to the 1940s is well represented by posters of everyday items hyper-realistically blown up into modern icons.
After World War II the show focuses on the mid-century modern movement known as the International Typographic Style. Through its use of sans-serif type, an orderly design grid and emphasis on photography, the poster became a truly graphic medium.
The radical poster styles of the 1960s also appear: Vermine Fasciste, a poster for the student uprisings in Paris of 1968 and Richard Avedon's solarized portraits of the Beatles (1967) capture the era. A final chapter is devoted to Post Modernism, a term used to describe styles from the 1970s to today, reacting to the Swiss Style which dominated the world for two decades. Today's graphic design masters on view include Gunther Rambow, Lex Drewinski, Ikko Tanaka, Ralph Schraivogel and others.