For graphic designers and poster aficionados, Moscow’s Golden Bee: International Biennale of Graphic Design is tantamount to a World’s Fair. Held from October 7 – 12 in the run-up to Moscow Design Week, this edition also turned a spotlight on American design, with the guest exhibition “Underground Images,” the 60-year retrospective of SVA subway posters that has been seen in seven European countries since last summer. The venue: Central House of Artists, where the Tretyakov State Gallery exhibits works by Malevich, Kandinsky and other giants of the Russian avant-garde.
With some 1,200 works chosen from a record 15,000 submissions on view, the 11th edition of the Golden Bee surpassed previous editions in scope, and judging by the enthusiastic crowds at the week’s many events, popularity. Posters from around the world accounted for the vast majority of submissions, along with typography, making the Biennale an ideal backdrop for “Underground Images.” Curated by SVA Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes, who has served as creative director for the posters since 2007, the exhibition brings together more than 50 of the iconic subway posters created by SVA faculty members.
Of the Biennale’s unlikely name, Dr. Serge Serov, president of the Golden Bee explained: “The Golden Bee gathers honey in the form of the best works of dedicated designers who can extract beauty from the most ordinary objects.”
Serving as the only American designer on the Golden Bee’s jury this year was designer and MFA Illustration as Visual Essay faculty member Mirko Ilić, who organized “Underground Images” along with Francis Di Tommaso, director of the SVA Galleries. On Tuesday, October 7, Ilić and his work for SVA were celebrated in an exhibition dedicated to work by the five jurors: Iran’s Reza Abedini, Britain’s Jonathan Barnbrook, Russia’s Eric Belousov, Portugal’s Gute Moura Guedes and Poland’s Lech Majewski.
On Thursday, October 9, SVA Communication Director Michael Grant opened the lectures program with a presentation on the College and the history of the subway posters. The theme was “We Tell Stories,” in recognition of the upcoming exhibition celebrating the 30th anniversary of the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program, which opens November 11 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery.
In the afternoon, Ilić traversed the long and colorful history of what is typically understood as environmental graphics based on his book (with MFA Design Co-Chair Steven Heller) Lettering Large: The Art and Design of Monumental Typography (Monacelli Press, 2013) for a standing-room audience. In a talk where the interpreter was hard pressed to keep up with Ilić’s trademark humor, the designer’s deep knowledge of political graphics was on full display.
After the presentations, Noel Leu, a rising star on the Swiss design scene who organized a different poster festival now traveling in Russia, said “I wanted to go to school again.”
The 28 artists in “Underground Images” include past and present members of the SVA faculty who: Gail Anderson, Marshall Arisman, Gene Case, Ivan Chermayeff, Paul Davis, Sal DeVito, Louise Fili, Audrey Flack, Nathan Fox, Bob Gill, Robert Giusti, Milton Glaser (“I Heart NY”), Phil Hays, Steven Heller, Mirko Ilić, Viktor Koen, Stephen Kroninger, Marvin Mattelson, James McMullan, Jerry Moriarty, Tony Palladino, Stefan Sagmeister, David Sandlin, Paula Scher, Eve Sonneman, George Tscherny, James Victore and Robert Weaver.
“Underground Images” remains on view as part of the Golden Bee at the Central House of Artists through Sunday, October 12.
Images, from top: Central House of Artists, Moscow; the opening reception; Golden Bee President Serge Serov at the opening; view of “Underground Images” at the opening.