School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Milton Glaser’s SVA: A Legacy of Graphic Design,” a 50-year retrospective of nearly 100 works created by the legendary designer for the College, where he has been on the faculty since 1960 and currently serves as acting chairman. The exhibition will include the original artwork for the iconic posters seen by generations of New Yorkers as part of SVA’s ongoing subway campaign, preparatory sketches that will be on public view for the first time, and rare printed pieces like the 1963 announcement for the course Glaser taught at SVA with the late art director Henry Wolf. The exhibition is curated by Steven Heller, design historian and co-chair of the MFA Design Department, and Mirko Ili?, designer and faculty member in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department. Beth Kleber, SVA’s archivist, researched and compiled the works in the exhibition, which is designed by Francis Di Tommaso, director of the Visual Arts Gallery. “Milton Glaser’s SVA: A Legacy of Graphic Design” will be on view at the Visual Arts Gallery, 601 West 21 Street, New York City, from August 31 – September 26, 2009.
To many, Milton Glaser is synonymous with American graphic design. He co-founded the revolutionary Pushpin Studios in 1954, founded New York magazine with Clay Felker in 1968, established Milton Glaser, Inc. in 1974, and designed the famous “I?NY” campaign in 1977. Among his many contributions to visual culture, Glaser was pioneering in his bold and creative use of text, belying the idea that a large image should dominate the design of a poster. One of the best known examples of this is the poster he designed to rally New Yorkers following 9/11, which reads, “I?NY MORE THAN EVER.”
“In any other country, Milton Glaser would have been knighted by now,” said Steven Heller, who has written over 100 books on graphic design, illustration and political art, and was an art director at The New York Times for 33 years. “He is the greatest living graphic designer in this country,” said Mirko Ili?, former art director for the international edition of Time and The New York Times Op-Ed pages, and co-author of The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics (Rockport, 2005), which was the basis for a traveling exhibition organized by SVA.
As seen in the many recent and experimental works featured in the exhibition, Glaser, who turned 80 this year, shows no signs of slowing down and continues to surprise. Highlights include posters Glaser created in 2005 and 2006 to raise awareness about world poverty (“We Are All African”) and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur (“What Happens in Darfur Happens to Us”). In addition, the designer has produced a new poster for this exhibition that was inspired by his recent foray into designing textiles for the soon-to-be completed SVA Theatre. “Looking is not Seeing,” as the text reads, features a symmetrical, all-over abstract pattern in shades of near-black that marries the esthetics of a 19th-century William Morris’s wallpaper and Ad Reinhardt monochrome painting. “I believe the work I’ve done for the School is more adventuresome than anything else I’ve done, primarily because of the audience,” Glaser has said.
The works in “Milton Glaser’s SVA” are drawn from the Milton Glaser Collection at the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at SVA. A project of the Visual Arts Foundation, the Archives opened in 2006 to preserve and make accessible design works of significant artistic, cultural, and historical value by preeminent designers, illustrators, and art directors who have close ties to SVA. Glaser’s founding gift to the Archives included some 700 pieces of original art, 1700 sketches, 380 posters, 150 prints and other publications designed and/or illustrated by him.
Throughout his career, Milton Glaser has been a prolific creator of posters and prints. His artwork has been featured in exhibits worldwide, including one-man shows at both the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Among numerous professional awards, he is the recipient of The Society of Illustrator’s Gold Medal, the St. Gauden’s Medal from The Cooper Union and he was selected for the lifetime achievement award of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in 2004. Glaser is also a member of The Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame and is the recipient of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Medal as well as 10 honorary degrees from prestigious institutions including the Royal College of Art in London and the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy. In 1998, Glaser was presented with SVA’s Masters Series Award and Exhibition, an annual exhibition to honor the great visual communicators of our time.