Lively Collages and Sculptures from Ivan Chermayeff, Co-Designer of Logos for NBC, PBS, MoMA
With the amount of whimsy and wit—childlike joy even—on display in the artwork of Ivan Chermayeff, you might be surprised to learn that the designer and illustrator isn’t exactly fresh out of art school. He’s in his 80s, several decades into a long, distinguished career.
In 1958, he co-founded Chermayeff & Geismar, the design firm responsible for creating iconic logos for American companies like NBC (the colorful peacock), PBS (a face in profile), and the MoMA (“that lowercase ‘o’ trapped between those two M’s,” to quote Ed Pusz, director of the museum’s graphic design department). But at Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York, the new exhibit “Collages and Sculptures” focuses on works Chermayeff has created in the past decade.
Some of these more recent works—particularly a series of untitled collages—show Chermayeff’s roots. They’re graphic, clean, and crisp, with bold planes of color and simple black or white lines forming geometric shapes. But many of the artist’s mixed-media assemblages have a completely different look. Upright pieces, such as Janus with Red Beret and Janus with Blue Fish (both 2000–2005), resemble primitive artworks depicting human heads. The woodblocks sport scraps, pegs, and decorative elements, like a tiny metal fish.
For other assemblages, Chermayeff used materials found in his design firm’s mailroom. Letter from Rajeev Sethi and Printed Face with Enrico Donati Hat Fragment (both 2015) are made with real envelopes and stamps. Playfulness is in no short supply: It’s as if these artifacts from days gone by were discovered and decorated by a kid.
Boucheron I (2015) centers on a 1930 receipt for a jade necklace. There are flashes of Old World glamour: The wording is in French, and the customer appears to have been a guest at the legendary Hôtel de Crillon. This collage and others seem to tell a story, though we can only guess what it is. Chermayeff, for his part, is happy to leave it open to interpretation. “Collages,” he once said, “make it possible for everything to be something else.”
“Ivan Chermayeff: Collages and Sculptures” is on view at Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, Mar. 3rd – Apr. 9th, 2016.