Posts tagged with "P! Gallery":

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P! Gallery hosts its final exhibition with artworks by Celine Condorelli

P! Gallery on Broome Street, just off Bowery, has been a hugely important center for displaying graphic arts and design since it opened five years ago. Started by graphic designer Prem Krishnamurthy of Project Projects, it has staged over 40 shows since it opened, but now the gallery is closing. Its final exhibit, created by U.K.-based artist Celine Condorelli, is appropriately titled Epilogue and focuses on her research into issues of display and “cumulative labor and support structures.” The starting point or inspiration for the exhibit is graphic designer Herbert Bayer’s 1930s technical exhibit drawing Extended Field of Vision (borrowed from a private collection for Epilogue) that features his oft-used device of “an exaggerated eye atop a male visitor’s body that observes planes of display in every direction.” The exhibit's press release notes Bayer’s several “blind spots within existing histories” (i.e. his ambiguous position during the rise of National Socialism) and his later reticence to acknowledge this compromise. Its an important qualifier to the designer's successful later career but the exhibit does not engage these political issues. Instead, the exhibit puts forward and reflects on Condorelli’s artistic practice that focuses on exhibition display and design. A second—but equally important—subtext for the show is P!’s five-year-long project of exhibits on design. It begins in the gallery’s Broome street picture window, which features a multi-layered window covering that colorfully frames the views between the street and the exhibition in the gallery. A series of Condorelli’s exhibit-inspired drawings line the gallery walls and a section cut-out of the gallery’s wall is repurposed into an upholstered seating unit for visitors to ”rest, converse, and observe.” A sculptural corrugated plastic room divider/curtain directs the public into the small gallery space to confront the exhibit and to celebrate the unfortunate closing of the gallery. The installation moves deliberately between historic references of exhibit design and the soon-to-be-shuttered gallery. Krishnamurthy started P! as an experiment in collapsing the boundaries of design, graphic arts, and architecture. He achieved it more than any other space in New York during this period and P! will be missed. P! is at 334 Broome Street; Epilogue runs through May 21, 2017.
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In memoriam: Elaine Lustig Cohen (1927–2016)

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Elaine Lustig Cohen, a friend, collaborator, mentor, and endless source of inspiration. Through her matchless work over the past seven decades, she gave us an image of what it means to do everything—whether as an artist, a designer, a dealer, an archivist, a thinker, or something else beyond professional names—with elegance and grace. We miss you dearly, but your memory and legacy remain with us. With love, Prem Krishnamurthy and P!
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East German graphic designer Klaus Wittkugel gets his due at P! Gallery

How does one do good work for bad people? This oversimplified question is especially relevant for architects, and one that the exhibition of work by East German graphic designer Klaus Wittkugel at P! Gallery (P! Gallery, 334 Broome St., New York. January 14–February 21, 2016) asks us to consider, while simultaneously treating us to some modernist visual pleasure.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have been taught that capitalism is the end-all-be-all system to structure our society, and consumption is the answer to our desires—overwhelmingly influencing our aesthetics and our ethics. But looking at the oeuvre of the little-known figure Wittkugel, who was the head designer of the German Democratic Republic’s Socialist Ministry of Information, we find an alternate reality: A sense of aesthetic purpose that, while firmly modernist, shows a softer, more figurative and less abstract approach to design. And yet at times it can be reminiscent of Socialist Realism propaganda, which today is usually met with finger wagging and dismissed as kitsch. It is supposedly the preferred visual language of dictators, with smiles beaming sunshine and 150 percent worker productivity embodied in a visual image. Yet what Ost Und oder West [East and West] reveals is a more complex relationship between design and power, and the limits of artistic freedom under Soviet Communism in post-war Germany.

The exhibition is not only impressive for the work it contains, but also for how it was assembled. P! founder and director Prem Krishnamurthy spent more than seven years assembling Wittkugel’s work into a thorough survey of books, posters, exhibitions, and signage, found in auspicious moments at used bookstores and by scouring eBay. In the process of uncovering this history, Krishnamurthy tells of an early encounter in Wittkugel’s career in 1950, when he designed a poster for a GDR Five Year Plan, and was chastised for its abstraction. Some higher party official determined that this abstraction did not adequately service the proletariat. Witttkugel was censured for not being a good enough Communist, and subsequently forced to attend remedial Socialism classes, brushing up on his Marx and Lenin as if that would instill his graphic designs with the proper message.

The work of Wittkugel displayed in the gallery is in a visual style that positions him as an heir to the legacies of early 20th-century design legends El Lissitzky and László Moholy-Nagy, like a long-lost East German cousin of the earlier German Bauhaus and Russian Constructivist diasporas. The judicious use of mise en abyme—the graphic technique of creating an infinity mirror, a recursive visual trick where an image contains a smaller version of itself in a window in a window in a window, etc…. We might describe this today as “meta.” Krishnamurthy acknowledges that one of the things that really attracted him to his work is “a strain of self-reflexivity about the production of graphic design. So you have a poster, for an exhibition of posters, that is a freshly-postered poster column,” he said. The P! exhibition continues this game by recreating the poster column on the gallery facade.

All of this is juxtaposed with a companion exhibition at OSMOS gallery on the work of Anton Stankowski, a former classmate of Wittkugel’s from the Folkwang University of the Arts, who went on to work in West Germany and Zurich, designing many corporate logos—most notably the minimal Deutsche Bank slash-in-square, which is still in use today. While Stankowski designed symbols of Western businesses and corporations in service of capital, Wittkugel designed the visual manifestation of the political and cultural ambitions of Soviet East Germany in the form of dinnerware, an elegantly embellished cursive visual identity, and signage for the now-demolished Palast der Republik.

While works like Wittkugel’s signage for the Kino International relate more directly to architecture, the exhibition offers conceptual lessons for architectural practice about architecture’s inevitable collaborations with people whose values may not align with one’s own. You can refrain from designing prisons if you object to incarceration, but it doesn’t mean some architect somewhere won’t design that prison, so why not engage and attempt to design a more humane prison?

The importance of critical engagement is shown in Wittkugel’s 1957 exhibition Militarism without Masks. He conceived of the exhibition, organized the team, designed it with his students, and ultimately won the East German National Prize. It was a polemical, anti-West German exhibition that featured former Nazis who became part of the West German government, juxtaposing images of Hitler with Henry Ford, snakes, and gold coins. The show featured two levels of narrative: Detailed vitrine presentations with archival materials that told the story of the Krupp family and how they made money from the war, alongside big bombastic moves that allude to El Lissitzky’s exhibition designs. Another impressive element was a mechanically louvered sign with vertical, rotating triangular slats to display three images. Also included in the exhibition was a panorama of the Kurfürstendamm in West Berlin, portrayed as a wasteland without humans—a newspaper kiosk with militaristic posters on it stands alone. Four years later, in 1961, when Wittkugel did his own retrospective exhibition, he recreated that same newspaper kiosk in the photograph, at a one-to-one scale, thereby showing his exhibition design as an object in his exhibition: it’s a very self-reflexive design move.

Any serious international cultural institution would be remiss not to consider this collection of thought provoking but lesser-known work from a precarious moment in design history.

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Review> Lessons from P! Gallery’s recent exhibition on East German designer Klaus Wittkugel

Ost Und oder West [East and West], Klaus Wittkugel P! Gallery Ended February 21 How does one do good work for bad people? This oversimplified question is especially relevant for architects, and one that the recent exhibition of work by East German graphic designer Klaus Wittkugel at P! Gallery asked us to consider, while simultaneously while treating us to some modernist visual pleasure. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall we have been taught that capitalism is the end-all-be-all system to structure our society, and consumption is the answer to our desires, overwhelmingly influencing our aesthetics and our ethics. But looking at the oeuvre of this little-known figure, Klaus Wittkugel, who was the head designer of the German Democratic Republic’s Socialist Ministry of Information, we find an alternate reality: a sense of aesthetic purpose that, while firmly modernist, shows a softer, more figurative and less abstract approach to design. And yet at times it can be reminiscent of Socialist Realism propaganda, today usually met with finger wagging and dismissals of kitsch: the prefered visuals of dictators, with smiles beaming sunshine and 150 percent worker productivity embodied in a visual image. Yet what this show, Ost Und oder West [East and West], revealed is a more complex relationship between design and power, and the extent of artistic freedom under Soviet Communism in postwar Germany. The exhibition is not only impressive for the work it contains, but also for how it was assembled. P! founder and director, Prem Krishnamurthy, spent more than seven years assembling Wittkugel’s work into a thorough survey of books, posters, exhibitions, and signage, found in auspicious moments at used bookstores and by scouring eBay. The work of Wittkugel displayed in the gallery was in a visual style that positions him as an heir to the legacies of early 20th Century design legends El Lissitzky and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, like a long-lost East German cousin of the earlier German Bauhaus and Russian Constructivist diasporas. The judicious use of mis-en-abyme—the graphic technique of creating an infinity mirror, a recursive visual trick of an image containing a smaller version of itself in a window in a window in a window in a…—we might describe today as being very “meta.” Krishnamurthy acknowledges that “one of the things that really attracted me to his work is there’s a strain of self-reflexivity about the production of graphic design. So you have a poster, for an exhibition of posters, that is a freshly-postered poster column,” which the P! exhibition continued, recreating the poster column on the gallery facade. All of this is juxtaposed with a companion exhibition at OSMOS Gallery on the work of Anton Stankowski, a former classmate of Wittkugel’s from the Folkwangschule Essen, who went on to work in West Germany and Zurich, designing many corporate logos, most notably the minimal Deutsche Bank slash-in-square, still in use today. While Stankowski designed symbols of Western capital, Wittkugel designed the visual manifestation of the political and cultural ambitions of Soviet East Germany in the form of an elegantly embellished cursive visual identity, dinnerware, and signage for the now-demolished Palast der Republik. While works like Wittkugel’s signage for the Kino International relate more literally to architecture, the conceptual lessons the exhibition has for architectural practice speak more to architecture’s inevitable collaborations with people whose values may not align with one’s own. You can refrain from designing prisons if you object to incarceration, but it doesn’t mean some architect somewhere won’t design that prison, so why not engage and attempt to design a more humane prison? The importance of critical engagement is shown in Wittkugel’s 1957 exhibition Militarism without Masks, a polemical, anti-West German exhibition featuring former Nazis who became part of the West German government, displayed on a cleverly designed rotating vertical triangular louvered wall, just one example of very compelling exhibition design. Any serious international cultural institution would be remiss not to consider exhibiting, or even adopting, this collection of thought-provoking work from a precarious moment in design history.