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Vignelli, Rand, Igarashi and more masters of type in LACMA's ode to the art of the letterform

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ypography is an art form which deserves to be displayed for all to see and explore the power of the letterforms. The science and craftsmanship of type is at the heart of visual communication and LACMA aka the Los Angeles County Museum of Art brings the symbols with which we communicate, these stunning elements of the visual language, into the limelight in its impressive exhibition, Between the Lines: Typography in LACMA’s Collection.

“The selection, organization, and placement of letterforms in a work of graphic design profoundly impact how a viewer interprets the text. Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, designers have used typography to reframe the words on a page, striving to capture the pace and mood of their time through decisions about letter spacing and form” notes the museum. 

Drawn entirely from acquisitions made since 2014 as part of LACMA’s Graphic Design Initiative, the more than 30 posters and publications in this exhibition represent a range of typographic approaches from the mid-20th century through the present. From Corita Kent through Paul Rand to Massimo Vignelli and Takenobu Igarashi the exhibition Between the Lines: Typography in LACMA’s Collection features the work of numerous groundbreaking, utterly influential international designers. 

The works featured span over a half century, from the 1950s through 2013. “During this time, designers wrestled with how to use letter spacing and form to underscore the meaning of their texts, or to capture the mood of their time. Some practitioners, such as Massimo Vignelli, extolled clarity as the ultimate standard of success while others jettisoned legibility in order to convey abstract ideas and sensory experiences” writes LACMA's Staci Steinberger, Associate Curator, Decorative Arts and Design.

Takenobu Igarashi created the futuristic blurred effect on this poster by painstakingly moving the words “New Music Media” over photosensitive paper in three-millimeter increments. Takenobu Igarashi, New Music Media, 1974, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the artist, © Takenobu Igarashi, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

From Corita Kent through Paul Rand to Massimo Vignelli and Takenobu Igarashi the exhibition Between the Lines: Typography in LACMA’s Collection features the work of numerous groundbreaking, utterly influential international designers. 

In the catalogue covers for her rare book business, Ex Libris, Elaine Lustig Cohen integrated hallmarks of each modernist movements’ expressive typography while maintaining a clean, contemporary aesthetic notes Steinberger. Elaine Lustig Cohen, Russian Poets & Critics, 1979, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Tamar Cohen, © Estate of Elaine Lustig Cohen, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

“Innovative designers challenged the limitations of available technologies, from letterpress to phototypesetting to computer software... Others arranged words into dense clusters or precise curves, allowing the spatial relationships between them to suggest multiple layers of meaning. And some expressed themselves through historic and vernacular forms, drawing connections with the past or finding new meanings in familiar tropes” she notes. 

In the exhibition Kent's ability to physically bent and folded texts to create stencils for her serigraphs and Igarashi's futuristic take in design prove that typography is indeed an art form and LACMA's ode to the letterforms demonstrates “how inventive typography can enhance a work of design, adding layers of meaning beyond the simple words on the page.”

So, if you are lucky enough to be in Los Angeles explore a wide range of typographic approaches, from brash headlines to delicate hand-scrawled text in Between the Lines: Typography in LACMA’s Collection which runs through September 2, 2019. Explore more here.

Slider image captions: Massimo Vignelli, Knoll International, 1967, made for Knoll International, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Peter and Shannon Loughrey, © Estate of Lella and Massimo Vignelli, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. Corita Kent, things go better with, 1967, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Evgenia Citkowitz and Julian Sands, © Corita Art Center, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. Jack Werner Stauffacher, Journal of Typographic Research, designed 1966–67, this issue April 1967, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the artist © Estate of Jack Werner Stauffacher. Hy Farber, Promotional cards for The Magoffin Co., Typographers, 1950s, lithograph, 3 5/8 × 8 5/8 in., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Don Farber, © Estate of Hy Farber, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. Elaine Lustig Cohen, Dada, Rare Books, & Documentary Literature, 1978, offset lithograph, 4 × 9 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Tamar Cohen, © Estate of Elaine Lustig Cohen, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.