International Poster Gallery announces Mid-Century Modern: The Posters of Josef Muller-Brockmann an exhibition celebrating a newly acquired collection of the artist's groundbreaking International Typographic Style posters from the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibition is the gallery's second on Mid-Century modernism, following up last year's show on the work of Armin Hofmann. Despite vastly different methods, both men helped create the "Swiss Style" which became the leading graphic approach worldwide that continues to exert its influence today.
Muller-Brockmann's posters are widely collected by art and design museums throughout the world. International Poster Gallery has assembled more than 60 of his poster designs including most of his masterpieces. "This is a rare find that enables us to get a year-by-year, poster-by-poster view of how this style came to be. It includes many formative works that we have not seen in more than a decade," states gallery president Jim Lapides. "They are part of a large acquisition which reveals many aspects of the Swiss Style since the 1920s."
Strongly relying on typographic elements, the "Swiss Style" was refined at two design schools in Switzerland, one in Basel led by Armin Hofmann and Emil Ruder, and the other in Zurich under the leadership of Mueller-Brockmann. All had studied with Ernst Keller at the Zurich School of Design before WWII, where the modernist principles of the Bauhaus and Jan Tschichold's New Typography were taught.
Muller-Brockmann abruptly rose to prominence in the early 1950s, with the appearance of his highly abstract series of concert posters in Zurich. The series would continue over the next two decades, and Muller-Brockmann would pursue the goal of graphic purity. He replaced drawn illustration with a mathematical grid that echoed the rational structure of modern architecture. He reduced the color palette to its most elemental - black and white - or at other times to one or two colors, and also replaced traditional typefaces with clean and straightforward sans-serif faces. The result was utterly straightforward and logical. The world had rarely seen posters that were more objective and pure in their approach.
The biggest surprise, however, was that Muller-Brockmann could infuse a rich sense of harmony and melodious rhythm into these seemingly simple posters. His Beethoven concert poster of 1955 is as visually resonant as the great composer's Fifth Symphony, which inspired it. The exhibition includes several key works from the concert series, as well as from the early Swiss Automobile Club series, which featured Muller-Brockmann's constructive approach to photography.
His work, like Hofmann's, became widely synonymous with the "look" of many Swiss cultural institutions, which used posters as advertising vehicles. An implacable advocate of the new style, he wrote extensively on posters and was the inspiration for the magazine "New Graphic Design" which would spread the style's message throughout the world.