Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast

Image 1Philadephia Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition called Double Portrait about the American graphic designer, Paula Scher, and illustrator, Seymour Chwast. He is notable for being one of the founders, along with Milton Glaser, of the very influential Push Pin Studios. Scher and Chwast not only worked together but are also a married couple.

The image above, End Bad Breath, by Chwast, is an Uncle Sam pastiche and anti-war poster designed in protest at the US bombing of Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1968. A close look at the bombers in his mouth tell you what the bad breath is. It is typical of the style of both Chwast and Push Pin, being vernacular (inspired by popular culture and historical themes) in influence but with a strong concept rendered in vibrant illustration. This kind of style was credited (or perhaps, blamed) for ending Modernism, but the Push Pin designers themselves said it was just the appropriate response to the jobs they had at the time. Nevertheless, Chwast is part of the movement that can be seen as a forerunner of Post-Modernism because Push Pin moved away from the photographic-based, clean design of the Swiss style of Modernism to use more child-like, popular illustration in their works. The witty “mash-up” is now seen as a mark of Post Modernism.

Scher is a principal of the famous Pentagram design company and has had a succesful career creating designs that have become part of Amercian culture. One of her most striking was the branding for The Public Theatre, New York, fourteen years ago. Scher has since updated this and you can see her new designs on the Pentagram website here. The Pentagram consultancy has been described as “the Rolls Royce of design” and we at GDP certainly use them as references in our projects when we want to use a benchmark for excellence. The image below of the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre shows Scher as a typical Pentagram designer, using typography in architecture to combine all aspects of design. The exhibition also contains a Scher “poster wall” that demonstrate the range of her works. According to Pentagram’s own Twitter feed the team all recently made a pilgrimage to see the Scher show.

The exhibition runs till April 14th 2013 and you can see a slide show of more works on the Philadelphia Museum’s website here.

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Image credits:

Top: End Bad Breath, 1967. Seymour Chwast, American, b. 1931. Poster, offset lithograph, 37 x 24 inches

Upper Middle: New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 2001. Paula Scher, American, b. 1948.Paint, environmental graphics. Photograph by Peter Mauss/ ESTO

Lower Middle: Seymour,  from the book The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast, 2009. Seymour Chwast, American, b. 1931. Lithograph on paper, 35 x 23 3/4 inches

Bottom: Best of Jazz,1979. Paula Scher, American, b. 1948, Offset lithograph, poster, 26 x 35 inches. For CBS Records

All images courtesy of the Press Office, Philadelphia Museum

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