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Home : Gallery Exhibitions : Mid-Century Modern

Mid-Century Modern

Working in the early 1950s, Hofmann was seminal in creating the "Swiss Style" that became the leading graphic approach worldwide over the next two decades - a style which continues to exert its influence on graphic artists today. With this "Spotlight Exhibition," International Poster Gallery celebrates a newly acquired collection of the artist's ground-breaking International Typographic Style posters. The recent acquisition has enabled the Gallery to assemble most of Hofmann's posters including nearly all of his masterpieces. Hofmann's posters express a graphic purity rarely seen in any medium. Restricting his palette to primarily black and white (and sometimes a third color), Hofmann used a mathematical grid to provide a unified and orderly structure. Hand illustration disappeared, replaced by black and white studio photography, while traditional typefaces were replaced by clean and straightforward sans serif styles.

In less capable hands, this severity might lead to uninspired and emotionless efforts. But through his artistic inspiration and skill, Hofmann accentuated the contrasts and tensions between design elements to create bold statements, full of surprise and subtlety, which read powerfully from both close-up and at a distance.

His 1959 poster for the ballet Giselle, for example, is a sublime juxtaposition of a soft, ephemeral photographic image with hard-edged, geometric and immovable typography. So carefully balanced is the composition that the entire poster pivots graphically on the dot on the letter 'i' in the title.

In addition, this new style was perfectly suited to the increasingly global postwar marketplace: corporations needed international identification, and global events such as the Olympics called for a universal graphic vocabulary which the Typographic Style provided. Hofmann's Basel design school established a link with the Yale School of Design, which became the leading American center for the new style. By the 1970s, use of the International Typographic Style had spread throughout the world.

While collected by art and design museums throughout the world, Hofmann's posters remain surprisingly affordable - with prices starting at just a few hundred dollars.