Drawn from its own archive and that of the American Craft Council, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) presents Eye for Design, an exhibition that explores the unique graphic identity created by the Museum (then the Museum of Contemporary Crafts) in the 1960s and 1970s through its imaginatively designed exhibition catalogues and related ephemera. As the field of graphic design became increasingly corporate driven, the designers featured in this exhibition—including Emil Antonucci, John J. Reiss, Sam Richardson, and Linda Hinrichs—dared to break graphic conventions and captured the spirit of the Museum with hand-drawn illustrations, playful use of typography, vibrant color, fresh design, and inventive adaption of the catalogue form.
"MAD embraced a very open definition of craft in the 1960s and 1970s, as the exhibition history highlighted by these catalogues demonstrates," said MAD's Windgate Research and Collections Curator Elissa Auther. "Alongside medium-specific exhibitions of ceramics or textiles, the Museum also produced an unusual series of shows featuring sound, immersive environments, audience-driven 'scores' for exploring the city, and the art of baking, among many other creative practices and experiences."
"The graphic design included in this exhibition, particularly the work of Antonucci, Reiss, and Richardson, captures a sense of humanity—through their hand-rendered illustrations—that goes missing in graphic design of the later decades of the twentieth century," added Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio. "Today it has come back to the field through a revival of independent presses and artist books."
Eye for Design
The Museum of Arts and Design (then the Museum of Contemporary Crafts) first opened its doors in 1956 with the mission to recognize the craftsmanship of contemporary American artists. Eye for Design highlights the celebrated exhibitions of the 1960s and 1970s—organized under Paul J. Smith's directorship, which embraced an expansive definition of craft, including forms of practice and sensory experiences that remain unorthodox in the art world today.
The exhibitions and graphic design illustrated in Eye for Design fuse pop culture, art world influence, and fashion, and the catalogues are expressive artworks in their own right, as opposed to mere devices to capture contents of an exhibition:
The cover of Emil Antonucci's The Art of Personal Adornment evokes Henri Matisse's famous figural cut-outs. The catalogue, for the exhibition of the same name, epitomizes the illustrative style of the designers included in Eye for Design, and Antonucci's hand-rendered drawings of jewelry in the interior pages emphasize the personal nature of craftsmanship.
John J. Reiss' exhibition catalogue for Amusements Is… explores the expression of fun, play, and humor through objects that encourage public participation through a "please touch" policy, a radical change from the traditional museum practice. For the exhibition catalogue, Reiss used images of toys from the exhibition to construct fantastical scenes that replicate a children's counting book, complete with nonsensical limericks.
Tony Lane's Levi's Denim Art Contest: A Catalog of Winners, the exhibition catalogue for Denim Art, captures the denim craze that swept the United States during the socially and politically tumultuous era of the 1960s and 1970s. From thousands of submissions, 25 winners and 25 honorable mentions were chosen and organized into a nationally touring exhibition, which premiered at the Museum in 1974.
Linda Hinrichs' designs are close to pop art in her use of bold design and color. Her cover design for The New American Quilt features the quilt Landscape in Blue (1973) by Gwen-Lin Goo, whose repeat lip pattern is reminiscent of Salvador Dalí's Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) and Andy Warhol screen prints.
Eight objects made by artists featured in the many exhibitions highlighted in Eye for Design will be included from the permanent collection of the Museum. Artists include Katherine Choy, Arline Fisch, Marvin Lipofsky, Gertrud and Otto Natzler, Lenore Tawney, and Marian Clayden, whose First Ceremonial Enclosure (1971) was included in Fabric Vibrations/Tie and Fold-dye Wall Hangings and Environments (1972).