Graphic design gives shape to the thousands of messages we encounter every day — from soup can labels to your favorite online news source. A genre that often goes overlooked in the art world is getting this special treatment this month in a collaborative exhibition between two well-established Grand Rapids arts institutions.
"Graphic Design: Now in Production," the exhibition between the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Kendall College of Art and Design, explores the way designers use color, typography, images and systems to make surfaces around us come alive with meaning. The ambitious exhibition looks at cutting-edge ideas and breaking cultural revolutions in the world of visual communication, paying special attention to examples of the 21st century.
Each site will devote gallery space to different aspects of graphic design, creating cohesive looks at the various manifestations of artform. The Fed Gallery at Kendall will include posters, magazines, books, storefront design, and film and television, while the GRAM will look at typography, branding and identity, and information design.
The exhibition marks a historical moment in the histories of two important institutions as both the GRAM and Kendall have long played integral roles in the art and design culture of the community. Kendall recently expanded its presence downtown, renovating and moving into the Old Federal Building, which was home to the GRAM for quite some time.
It is the first time Kendall and the GRAM have worked on such a project, and GRAM Director and CEO Dana Friis-Hansen said the exciting collaboration "simply makes sense."
"West Michigan is a center for design and creativity," Friis-Hansen said. "GRAM is committed to the presentation and interpretation of design history and contemporary expressions, and Kendall is a recognized leader in design education. The continued collaborative spirit between the two organizations creates a strong base of knowledge and opportunity in the community."
Dr. David Rosen, president of Kendall College of Art and Design, agrees.
"Joining these two extraordinary forces for art and design in the region provides the exhibition even greater energy and meaning. The new relationship brought about by the union is also energizing each of our two exceptional institutions."
The collaboration between Kendall and the GRAM isn't the only partnership taking place. The exhibition was co-organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. Co-curators of the exhibition are Andrew Blauvelt, curator of architecture and design, Walker Art Center and Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
A variety of additional programming including presentations, lectures and interactive events will be held in conjunction with the exhibitions, creating an environment ripe for discovery, exploration and connection.
OTHER ART EVENTS
A Nickel and a Kopek Photographs by Bill Franson, 1952
Inner City Christian Federation, Grand Rapids
Through April 1
iccf.org, (616) 336-9333
The Inner City Christian Federation occupies one of the most recognized buildings in the Cherry Hill Business District, and the organization has recently begun to host art exhibitions that parallel the beauty of the architecture. Currently on display are a series of black and white photos by Bill Franson over a period of seven years that documents his family's adoption of a child from Russia. The exhibit is on loan from Calvin College and can be viewed Monday-Friday 9a.m.-4p.m.
In Retrospect — James Karsina
LaFontsee Gallery, Grand Rapids
Through March 23
lafontsee.us, (616) 451-9820
This month, a retrospective of one of Grand Rapids' most celebrated artists will be on display, showcasing more than 30 years of work. Karsina is known for his bold palette and abstract explorations of the environments of the Midwest. His pieces have been shown all over the country and are collected in more than 40 corporate collections and 450 private collections. New and old works ranging from delicate drawings on paper to bold acrylics on canvas will be featured, an explosive mix ready to be rediscovered or seen for the first time.
Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
March 2–May 26
$5, $2 for students
kiarts.org, (269) 349-7775
Costume designer and heralded arts patron Myrna Colley-Lee shares 50 works of her collection, creating a narrative of community and place. Paintings, collages and fabric works are among the mediums found in this selection that focuses on the figurative and representational to depict scenes and landscapes of the American South. Noted artists such as Romare Bearden, James VanDerZee, Elizabeth Catlett, Eudora Welty and Betye Saar are among the works featured in the exhibition, which was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington DC, in collaboration with the office of Myrna Colley-Lee.