Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Designers
December 2, 2012 – April 14, 2013
The Perelman building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art never fails to disappoint. Sure, the riches of the collections on the hill are outstanding, but there is something so incredibly appealing about the scale and space of the Perelman as I enjoy their changing exhibitions of design, photography, fashion and more. It is a true gem and the place I love to bring visiting guests to Philadelphia and it brings me tremendous happiness to check it out often. It provides an important opportunity for new designers entering the field to build a richer understanding of the history of their field.
The latest exhibit is a celebration of the design couple Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, and it looks at how they have transformed their fields of practice.
Honoring the achievements of this remarkably creative couple, whose work is being shown together for the first time, this exhibition includes images in a wide range of formats, selected and installed by Chwast (American, born 1931) and Scher (American, born 1948).
The exhibition demonstrates Chwast’s deeply personal vision, inspired by sources as diverse as German Expressionist woodcuts, Victorian typography, children’s art, primitive art, folk art and comic books.
On view is one of Chwast’s most iconic works of the 1960s, his antiwar poster “End Bad Breath” (1968), designed in protest of the U.S. bombing of Hanoi, Vietnam. 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 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. The exhibition features her identity program and posters for New York’s Public Theater. 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 that convey the sound of the performance. Scher’s environmental graphics for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education (2000), utilizes large, brightly colored “supergraphics” to redraw the exterior of the sixty-year-old school building with painted words announcing the school’s program as “Theater, Music, Dance.”
Let us know what you think of their work!