SVA’s Colorful New Subway Poster Bursts Just in Time for Spring

April 8, 2016

The College’s latest subway poster celebrates the creative and productive spirits at the heart of SVA. Designed and illustrated by alumnus and faculty member Viktor Koen (MFA 1992 Illustration as Visual Essay) and boasting the phrase “Where Art Is Made,” the bright and colorful posters are set to hit New York City platforms underground on Monday, April 11, and will be on view through Sunday, June 5.

poster735MFA Design Co-Chair Steven Heller, who provided art direction for the poster, says, “SVA has so many incredible offerings, but the common denominator throughout the college is and always will be Art. The idea behind and title of this poster exclaims that SVA is the place where art is made and Viktor Koen captured the joy and surprise that comes from that making.”

Koen explains his inspiration for the poster and describes his process below:

This spring, amongst the gloom, boom and doom movie posters in the subway, a surprising burst of color seemed like a good idea. Mixing such splashes with ink swirls on a facial palette is an exciting yet frustrating process of blending liquids, much like cooking with gourmet ingredients, with specific results in mind but no recipe. Knowing that the impact would be delivered mostly by the expression on the face and its interaction with color punctuated by the print making roller, a white background to frame the composition and separate it (as much as possible) from its dim environs made sense.

Having worked with Steve for years meant expecting (and fearing) an instant, insightful and brutally honest response to anything I showed. Brutally good or brutally bad. But always looking to create a poster that does something and if not energizing, then motivating people towards action that will increase art intake in their daily diet. Teaching for the Continuing Education department vividly defines the audience for these posters—the subway commuters about to take their first step towards the arts in their widest definition as illustrated by the amount and range of classes SVA offers. For a change, instead of fusing elements into clear concepts that deliver a message, this poster works on emotion where face expression and palette fluidity do the heavy lifting. Maybe I’m getting softer, or in the depths of winter gray it was intensity of color that was needed the most.

After several weeks of sketches that varied from the historical to the bizarre, the call for an abstract representation of art making but also the excitement such undertaking generates became clear. This inspiring composition could only be accomplished by genetically fusing its ingredients through their structural DNA so the pigments didn’t only have to blow our character’s mind but become the character itself.

Yes, splashes of colors and ink swirls in water were never part of my palette. But having to experiment with them on a couple of magazine covers that demanded such blend of effects got me hooked. And once you try it, as they say, you develop a taste for it. Just like blood.

Anthony P. Rhodes, executive vice president of the College, serves as creative director for SVA’s subway poster campaigns. For more information about the SVA subway poster series and “Underground Images,” the traveling exhibition of SVA subway posters, click here.


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