Sunday, July 21, 2013

Piet Zwart and El Lissitzky at “Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design”

Piet Zwart (Dutch, 1885–1977)
Brochure for Bruynzeel lijstwerk, c. 1935
Tri-folded offset-printed flyer
Frederick W. Renshaw Acquisition Fund Art Institute of Chicago
Bruynzeel’s door and sash, mouldings and frames.
Photograph by versluis (taken through the picture frame glass)

At times it is easy to forget how radical the graphic designs of Piet Zwart and El Lissitzky were for their time.

For many years, beginning in 1930 Piet Zwart worked for the Bruynzeel company. In the beginning Zwart designed their annual calendars and other advertising materials. After a while he also served as an industrial and architectural designer for other products the company produced. In this piece Zwart utilizes scale and color of the hand profile that communicates and correlates handcrafted profiles of the wood mouldings. The black background bridges the negative space, typography, illustrations and photographic images. By highlighting the primary design elements the whole effect becomes very graphic.

A current exhibition at Art Institute of Chicago entitled, Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design provides an interesting curatorial concept by juxtaposing several categories.

The exhibition statement explains, “In six sections—Color, Geometry, Structures, Hybrid, Surface, and Technology—objects are united by shared goals, strategies, and ideas, rather than by period or media.” The statement go on to say:

From the powerful effect of color to the rigor of geometry, this exhibition mines the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design to reveal common creative concepts and formal strategies across the fields of architecture and design. These projects [such as the one shown above] in the Color section illustrate the diverse ways color can give design objects identity, improve functions, and promote new means of communication.
The piece shown below pertains to the Geometry section in the exhibition. Regarding this work, gallery information reads, “For graphic designers, geometry offers a tool for subverting conventional ideals of composition, as seen in the constructivist book cover design by El Lissitzky for a 1922 publication celebrating art in Russia.”

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890–1941)
VESHCH = Gegestand = Objet, 1922
Cover design, Periodical
From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
Ada Turnbull Hertle Fund, 2009.507
Image from WikiPaintings (I’ve adjusted the color to more resemble the piece in the show)

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