War on war: time to revisit Seymour Chwast’s ongoing design advocacy for peace
Known for his diverse body of work, and lasting influence on American visual culture, the cofounder of the internationally recognized and critically acclaimed Push Pin Studios, Seymour Chwast has developed and refined his innovative approach to design over the course of six decades.
A master of historical styles and movements, the Bronx-born Chwast “led a major revolution in American illustration and graphic design during the late 1950s and early 1960s, triggering the shift from sentimental realism to comic expressionism, among other radical feats” writes Steven Heller in Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast published by Chronicle Books.
“The illustrations for magazines, posters, advertisements, book jackets, record covers, product packages, and children’s books that he created after founding Push Pin Studios with Milton Glaser and Edward Sorel in 1954 directly influenced two generations (statistical fact) and indirectly inspired another two (educated conjecture) of international illustrators and designers to explore an eclectic range of stylistic an conceptual methods.”
To celebrate the graphic designer and illustrator’s crowdfunded book project “Seymour Chwast at War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5,000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks” that follows the artist’s decades-long of antiwar art the Society of Illustrators launched an exhibition devoted to a man that speaks only for peace, an artist that acknowledges the only fact that matters. That the only real ammo in wars is people’s lives, that people and only people are the one’s to pay the price on this never-ending bloody-soaked field led by the companies that are profiting of war.
As noted by Fast Company, “the United States makes more money on war than any other country. Really, it’s not even close.” Using the 2013 arms production database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as her data source, investigative data journalist, educator, MIT Knight Science Journalism and Fulbright alumna Talia Bronshtein’s infographic shows that 40 of the top 100 arms-producing companies in the world are based in the United States, with Lockheed Martin and Boeing being on top of this game of death. Other countries that win big are the U.K., France, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and Israel and Switzerland.
“As the United States weighs more involvement in the growing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, some of the largest weapons companies in the world — Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — are openly telling their investors that tensions between the countries are good for business. And General Dynamics, meanwhile, is boasting about the past returns the company has seen as a result of such disputes” reports In These Time’s Sarah Lazare.
Openly discussing the state of war profiting in 2022, on his January 25 earnings call, Raytheon Technologies’ CEO Greg Hayes included “tensions in Eastern Europe” among the factors that Raytheon stands to benefit from. “We just have to look to last week where we saw the drone attack in the UAE, which have attacked some of their other facilities. And of course, the tensions in Eastern Europe, the tensions in the South China Sea, all of those things are putting pressure on some of the defense spending over there. So I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it” he projected.
Boosting the profits via the ongoing war tension was also mentioned by Jim Taiclet, the chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin. “If you look at the evolving threat level and the approach that some countries are taking, including North Korea, Iran and through some of its proxies in Yemen and elsewhere, and especially Russia today, these days, and China, there’s renewed great power competition that does include national defense and threats to it” he told investors in a January 25 earnings call. “And the history of the United States is when those environments evolve, that we do not sit by and just watch it happen” he added.
As companies continue to cash in on tensions over Ukraine as the U.S. pours weapons into the region Seymour Chwast’s Vietnam War-era “War Is Good Business Invest Your Son” and “End Bad Breath” posters are to be remembered.
“Although Chwast’s art won’t put an end to war, it invites us to think about the consequences — and, more important, who ultimately benefits from the spoils” states author, art director and editor for Seymour Chwast at War with War, Steven Heller in his exhibition introduction.
Ever since 1957 when he published his first antiwar project aka Book of Battles till today, Chwast illustrates in pen and ink and on woodcuts humanity’s bloodshed history. From the Teutonic knight who spears a man in the 1283 Prussian conquest through 1994 Rwandan Genocide or the 2006 Iraq War, Seymour Chwast is a uniquely bold advocate for peace and a revolutionary force within the fields of graphic design and illustration.
Established in 2015, the Seymour Chwast Archive is a digital repository for his often deeply personal, urgent, and eclectic expanding body of work.Featuring selections from the designer’s personal collection, the site includes posters, books, packaging, typography, painting, sculpture, editorial illustrations, and ephemera from the 1940s to the present.
Explore more Chwast here.
Buy your own copy here.