Exhibit Design By KASA Collective
Poster House has opened to the public two main exhibitions — Made in Japan: 20th-Century Poster Art and Black Power to Black People: Branding the Black Panther Party. The institution is the first museum in the United States dedicated to the global history of posters; it is located at 119 West 23rd Street in Manhattan NYC.
“Poster House’s spring 2023 exhibitions expand the canon of graphic design history, while providing fresh interpretations on classic poster themes and highlighting diverse cultures, countries, and topics,” says Angelina Lippert, Chief Curator and Director of Content at Poster House. “This season’s main exhibitions take on particular importance in the wake of increased violence toward Black and AAPI communities, whose contributions to design history are often ignored.”
The exhibitions are enhanced by the work of KASA Collective, the result of synergy of two award-winning, international designers: John Kudos from KUDOS Design Collaboratory and Robert de Saint Phalle from Conduit, who have been collaborating on a range of complex projects for over two decades.
(Feature image above by Samuel Morgan Photography @SammySachs)
A Mix of Traditional And Modern
Made in Japan: 20th-Century Poster Art features 73 works that highlight and explore the cultural and political shifts within modern Japan that influenced the functions and messaging of its iconic advertising and promotional posters, and how those posters were subsequently received by the public. The show highlights the history of collaboration as well as the mix of traditional and modern influences that make Japanese design unique.
The exhibition showcases posters throughout the twentieth century, beginning with the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, with images designed to inspire patriotism, circulate propaganda, and encourage consumer restraint in support of the war effort. As Japanese corporations became global brands following World War II, Japanese artists conceived new forms of graphic media that mixed aspects of traditional Japanese aesthetics with Western design idioms. The exhibit also highlights how Japanese designers began to address social issues through their art at the end of the twentieth century, such as climate change and global peace.
The exhibit is live through September 10 and includes works by artists such as Hokusai, Yusuka Kamekaru, Ikko Tanaka, Tadanori Yokoo, Keiichi Tanaami, Kazumasa Nagai, among others. Curators are Nozomi Naoi and Erin Schoneveld.
Controlling The Narrative
Black Power to Black People: Branding the Black Panther Party features 37 works dating from 1932 to 1980, that chronicle how the Black Panther Party (BPP), an influential militant group founded during the 1960s civil rights movement, devised a specific graphic language to reclaim Black humanity and decommodify Black life. The exhibit includes heroic images of party members, printed materials like The Black Panther newspaper, and political campaign posters. The message: graphics and materials allowed the Black Panther Party to control its own narrative and brand Black nationalism to advance a communal revolution.
The BPP branded a new movement that relied heavily on the use of bold language, striking graphics, and powerful photographs of its members wearing black-leather jackets and carrying exposed firearms. The BPP’s graphics and posters were important for the dissemination of information to the public, widely sharing radical images and slogans that captured a shift in tone in the fight for civil rights. These posters and newspapers further established an authentic Black identity, responding to historic systems of exploitation and anti-Black violence. Artists whose posters are exhibited include: Emory Douglas, Dorothy Hayes, Danny Lyon, among others. Curator is Es-pranza Humphrey and this exhibition, too, runs through September 10.
KASA Collective Leads Immersive Visual Journey
As noted above Kasa Collective and its partners — John Kudos of KUDOS Design Collaboratory and Robert de Saint Phalle of Conduit — are responsible for bringing both experiences to life.
At a press briefing, Kudos (left) told GDUSA that: “We view the Made in Japan exhibit as an immersive visual journey through the golden age of graphic design in Japan, told through posters. We took inspiration from the well-known Nihon Buyō (Japanese Dance) poster designed by Ikko Tanaka — a godfather figure in Japanese graphic design — to design a colorful passage of geometric shapes that becomes increasingly larger as one progresses through the exhibit. Of the geometric motif that runs throughout the exhibit, KASA partner John Kudos says, “we wanted an immersive motif to accentuate the posters and engage them with the broader narrative without provincializing the work. We chose color hues that serve as thematic backdrops for each section of the gallery.”
A triptych of oversized title walls unfurls like a Japanese folding fan to greet visitors at the entrance. The exhibit continues through four chronological sections. Speaking about the exhibit’s spatial design, de Saint Phalle comments: “Our intent was to balance a linear curatorial flow while allowing a permeable exhibit space that can take you in and out of the exhibit timeline seamlessly.”
Large typography inspired by lettering found on the ships that brought Japanese immigrants to the American continent infuses a sense of industrialization and globalization to the exhibit, two forces that greatly influenced the evolution of graphic design in Japan.
Samuel Morgan Photography @SammySachs
As for the exhibit on Black Panther posters, the KASA partners say they approached this as an intimate look at how the Party harnessed the power of branding and media to control its own narrative, rally community support, and become one of the most influential militant groups of their time. Typefaces inspired by civil rights protest signs in the 1960s, an opening iconic photograph of Huey Newton (1967), military colors, striking graphics (a panther, the red star), heroic photographs of members and related figures such as Angela Davis, unfold in six chronological sections that help tell the story.
A Design Museum At Its Core
Both exhibitions are made possible through a generous loan from the Merrill C. Berman Collection. Poster House, which opened in June 2019, is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the global history of posters. Described by Director Lippert as “a design museum at its core,” the mission is to explore the hidden histories of this art, while mapping their role in today’s media landscape and encouraging the continued evolution of design.