Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Designers
December 2, 2012, through April 14, 2013
Scher and Chwast to receive Collab Design Award for Excellence
Illustrator Seymour Chwast is graphic designer Paula Scher’s greatest influence, and also happens to be her husband. With a shared sensibility and approach to design, their work has transformed the fields in which they practice. Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Designers celebrates the achievements of this remarkably creative couple, whose illustrations and designs will be shown together for the first time. The exhibition in the Collab Gallery of the Museum’s Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building will include more than 300 images, selected and installed by Chwast (b.1931) and Scher (b. 1948). On Saturday, December 1, they will be honored with the Design Excellence Award given by Collab, the group of design professionals and enthusiasts that supports the modern and contemporary design collection at the Museum.
“Thanks to the efforts and generosity of Collab, we are the only Museum in the country to regularly devote our galleries to exhibitions about contemporary designers,” notes Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700. “It is an extraordinary opportunity to be able to view Scher and Chwast’s work, side by side, in a museum setting. Seen in concert, their iconic images, social commentary, and commercial relevance speak to graphic design’s ability to transcend the medium’s perceived boundaries.”
Both Chwast and Scher understand graphics as expression, very often comic expression, and are drawn to eclectic influences and conceptual methods. Double Portrait explores the artists’ commonalities and differences in works ranging from record albums, books, magazine covers, and illustrations to posters, typefaces, trademarks, identities, and environmental graphics shown in videos and in the gallery.
The exhibition will demonstrate how Chwast’s vision was, and remains, deeply personal, inspired by sources as diverse as German Expressionist woodcuts, Victorian typography, children’s art, primitive art, folk art, and comic books. On view will be one of Chwast’s most iconic and still provocative works of the 1960s, his anti-war poster “End Bad Breath” (1968), designed in protest of the U.S. bombing of Hanoi. Both cartoon and illustration, the poster features Uncle Sam centered like the sun against a background of thick rays, his hugely open mouth filled with bombs and bombers. In his poster “War is Good Business: Invest Your Son” (1967), Chwast used a collage style of Victorian wood-block typography, photography, and bright color to create a dense, visually busy surface that activates his ironic text message.
Scher is best known for her innovative reimagining of typography as a communicative medium, her work divided largely between the fields of graphic identity and environmental graphics. Her identity program and posters for New York’s Public Theater (from 1994), will be featured in Double Portrait, including the graphic language designed for The Public Theater which reflects street typography with unconventional placements and uses of different sizes, weights, and styles of type. Her poster for the theater’s production of “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk” (1995) sets the play’s title and theater logos around the silhouetted image of the tap artist in different visual rhythms which convey the sound of the performance. Scher’s environmental graphics for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education (2001), utilizes super graphics to redraw the exterior of the sixty-year old school building in typography with painted words loudly announcing the school’s program as “Theater, Music, Dance.”
This exhibition is made possible by Lisa S. Roberts and David W. Seltzer. Additional support is provided by Collab, a group that supports the Museum’s modern and contemporary design collection and programs. In-kind support is provided courtesy of Alcorn McBride Inc.
About the Artists
Seymour Chwast studied at New York’s Cooper Union and, after graduating, co-founded the Push Pin Studios in 1954 with classmates Milton Glaser and Edward Sorel. Widely influential, Push Pin broadened the boundaries of modern design by reintroducing historic graphic styles and techniques, transforming them into a new, contemporary vocabulary. Throughout a varied career in promotion and publishing, Chwast’s designs have been used in advertising, animated films, and editorial, corporate, and environmental graphics for such clients as Mobil, Sony, Forbes, and Columbia Records, and his illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Time. He has created more than 100 posters and has designed and illustrated more than 40 children’s books. His work has been the subject of Seymour Chwast: The Left Handed Designer (Abrams, 1985) and Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast (Chronicle, 2009). Museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress have collected his posters, and he has lectured and exhibited worldwide.
Paula Scher holds a BFA from the Tyler School of Art and a Doctor of Fine Arts Honoris Causa from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Moore College of Art & Design. She began her professional career as an art director in the mid-1970s designing record covers for CBS and Atlantic Records, developing an eclectic approach to typography that became highly influential. In 1991, Scher became a partner in Pentagram, the distinguished international design consultancy. Scher has developed identity and branding systems, promotional materials, environmental graphics, packaging, and publication designs for a broad range of major corporate and institutional clients including, among others, the Museum of Modern Art, New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, Bloomberg L.P., Citibank, Microsoft, Tiffany & Co. and the Sundance Film Festival as well as the Public Theater and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Throughout her career, Scher has been the recipient of hundreds of industry honors and awards and served on numerous boards. Her work is represented in the permanent collections of museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. She has lectured and exhibited all over the world, and has taught for more than 20 years. She has authored numerous articles and is a frequent design contributor to The New York Times, GQ and other publications. In 2002, Princeton Architectural Press published her career monograph Make It Bigger as well as her map-based paintings, installations, drawings, and prints in Paula Scher: Maps, in 2011.
Both Scher and Chwast have received the medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, their profession’s highest honor, Chwast in 1985, Scher in 2001. In 1983 and 1998, respectively, Chwast and Scher have been inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame.
About the Design Excellence Award:
In conjunction with Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Designers, Collab will present the 2012 Design Excellence Award to the artists on the evening of December 1, 2012. The Design Excellence Award honors a renowned designer or manufacturer who has enriched the world with his or her unique creative vision. The award ceremony will take place in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Van Pelt Auditorium and will include an illustrated lecture by the artists.
About the Student Design Competition:
2012 marks the 20th anniversary of Collab’s Student Design Competition, which challenges area college students studying architecture and industrial design to be inspired by themes closely associated with the annual Design Excellence Award winner and corresponding exhibition. The 2012 challenge associated with Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Designers is entitled "Game On" and asks students to redesign and/or repackage an iconic game or create their own. The judges, prominent figures in the commercial and academic design world, will review the submissions and select the winners in a day-long review at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Monday, November 19, 2012. The top three winners receive monetary awards, and their work will be featured on the Museum website.