History In Exhibition Posters II
#ARTWISEUP by SAL McINTYRE
MARCH 1, 2019 

When an artist’s career spans many decades, art movements and locations around the globe, it can be disorienting to follow the wave of changes or evolutions swimming through time. One of the greatest features of the art poster world is the trail of exhibition posters, serving to contextualize a body of work in a geographic place, a time and even sometimes a cultural institution of significant note. When important museums organize a selection of work by a particular artist, their show posters represent a pinpoint marking the atmosphere of the art world at that moment, and further echoing the larger cultural motions of the world in general. These posters reflect a certain historical archive, part of a story told through curated selection, date, city, typography, color choices and more. More than just a print of a great artist’s work, they hold the flavor of whatever magic was circulating at the time, often the very same essences working to inspire the art in the first place.

Robert Rauschenberg – St Louis Symphony Orchestra, SIGNED offset lithograph 1968

This signed Rauschenberg is a first printing work created for the re-opening of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's Powell Hall on January 24th, 1968. Rauschenberg’s popular and labor-intensive assemblies were breaking boundaries with what could be considered fine art.  After the advent of photoshop in 1988, a compelling argument was being made for creating artwork by hand or mechanically— Rauschenberg’s style continually carved a strong counterpoint, and prominent institutions like the St. Louis Orchestra were in a significant place of stature to offer such a perspective. Even his typography is hand-arranged and often handwritten, with the chaotic fervor that could only accompany such originality, as in this official exhibition poster for a show held in Denmark in 1995, Night Shades + Urban Bourbons.

Robert Rauschenberg – Night Shades + Urban Bourbons, offset lithograph 1995

Here is an original exhibition poster designed by David Hockney for an exhibition of his works held at Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York in 1969. The image of his Corbusier Chair and Rug is of a painting created during Hockney’s most sought after and notable creative period, simmering in California in the late 1960s when he painted his well-loved Splash paintings. Known for his deconstruction of accepted norms and open-ended commentary of society, both with his imagery and with his renderings, he allows his eye for the inherent beauty in things to lead his expression. While his almost perfunctory display of these objects nods to his unique vantage point at that time, his real subject is no less than an homage to Le Corbusier, the great designer and pioneer of modern architecture, whose work Hockney was admiring.

David Hockney – Corbusier Chair and Rug, stone lithograph 1969
"These posters reflect a certain historical archive, part of a story told through curated selection, date, city, typography, color choices and more."

This work Constellations by Joan Miró was produced for the exhibition at Berggruen and Cie in Paris in 1959, a beautiful stone lithograph printed on watermarked Arches paper, with the original deckled edge. The image used derives from the exhibition portfolio, a collection of lithographs Miró created from his watercolors. Miró’s art encapsulates purity of poetic emotion and spontaneity of execution— although he found a prolific practice through his love of lithography, a highly delicate and mechanical process. He uses black ink with a range of values and refined tones, reaching wild and playful effects. The importance of his print work is exemplary of the profound ability of lithography to translate artistic vision into a reproducible medium valuable in its own right. It was a hallmark creativity machine for many European artists in the 1950s, defining a golden era of graphic artwork.

Joan Miró – Constellations, Mourlot stone lithograph 1959
James Rosenquist – A Small Planet Being Covered by Large Mirrors, offset lithograph 1972
Alexander Calder – Maeght Editeur, stone lithograph 1971
Marc Chagall – Oiseau Vert, Mourlot stone lithograph 1962
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