JAMESTOWN – Artifact and Process: The Evolving Field of Graphic Design, an exhibition featuring historical and contemporary graphic design, is now being displayed in Weeks Gallery on Jamestown Community College’s Jamestown Campus.
A reception, open to the public, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on February 12 in the gallery. The event features a presentation by Rachele Riley, one of the designers whose work is featured in the exhibition. Riley, assistant professor of design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will discuss her installation, “The Evolution of Silence,” a web-based research project about Yucca Flat, the Nevada nuclear test site.
“Graphic design was synonymous with commercial art for much of the 20th century,” notes Patricia Briggs, Weeks Gallery director. “Graphic designers made their names in advertising, magazine layout, and corporate identity development.
“In the age of the desktop computer, the role of a graphic designer has expanded to include subjective, exploratory practices that go beyond business and commercial applications and seem more akin to fine art,” she adds.
Guest curated by Jason Dilworth, assistant professor of visual arts and new media at the State University of New York at Fredonia, Artifact and Process features the work of approximately 15 graphic designers who present an historical framework as well as works that challenge customary descriptions of graphic design.
On view will be a number of World War I posters produced between 1914-1918 to bolster military recruitment and mobilize popular support for the war effort. On loan from the Patterson Library in Westfield, these large colorful posters were produced by the federal Division of Pictorial Publicity to illustrate patriotic ideas such as “Teamwork Builds Ships” and “Be Patriotic –Sign Your Country’s Pledge to Save the Food”.
Representing an era when color printing on a mass scale was relatively new, WWI posters depict brilliant hand-drawn figurative illustrations, the most popular graphic communication style of the early 20th century.
A new graphic design style emerged during the 1920s that was inspired by European avant garde art movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, and the Bauhaus style. Displacing drawn illustrations, this modern style used abstraction of simplified forms. The 1967 Polish file poster, “Krew na sniegu” (Blood on the Snow), presents a large abstract head dotted with blood. The original lithograph features hand-lettered typography and a photo collage reminiscent of surrealist film and art.
From the 1920s through the 1970s, geometric abstraction and a fascination with typography were the most characteristic features of professional graphic design as the field expanded with the growth of magazine publishing and corporate advertising. Posters by Lance Wyman, David Colley, and John Malinoski that represent the trend are included in the exhibition.
Four safety posters designed by Wyman, one of the primary designers for the summer Olympics, feature playful iconic figures. The posters were originally designed for the Chrysler Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
“With the advent of desktop computers, inkjet printers, and the Internet in 1980s and 90s, digital tools and publishing became widely accessible and graphic design began to break its close ties to business,” notes Dr. Briggs. “Experimentation and expression, rather than the client’s demands, become a trend that is represented in the exhibition with a sampling of Ray Gun Magazine and Emigre, both known for experimental typography and complex, sometimes chaotic, postmodernist design layout.”
Riley’s “The Evolution of Silence” weaves, through graphic and web design, archival historical data with personal reflections on a highly irradiated nuclear weapons site.
Dilworth and SUNY Fredonia colleague Megan Urban will host a discussion of works in the exhibition at noon on February 17. The event is open to the public.
The exhibition will be displayed until March 22. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Arts & Sciences Center.