interview with Melania Gazzotti – La Voce di New York

Costantino Nivola, Interior, 1948

Enter the elegant rooms of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, directed by Giorgio Van Straten, and immerse yourself in the exhibition “Italian Types: Graphic Designer from Italy in America” – curated by Melania Gazzotti with Patricia Belen and Greg D’Onofrio – and in the unmistakable features of the most acclaimed illustrators of the twentieth century is a visual suggestion expressed by the creativity of Depero, Vignelli, Norda, Grignani, Waibl, Giurgola. A path among the stylistic signs that revolutionized graphic design from the 30s to the 70s became short stories, among books, posters, album covers, magazine covers, advertising campaigns. In a subtle file rouge that winds and connects Italy and the United States, the exhibition tells how Italian graphics have influenced American visual culture with illustrators who with the suitcase in hand moved to the New World or began working for the American market, reinvent and revolutionize commercial communications. A narrative in “images” of the lives of these personalities, their culture and their identity, in a history writing characterized by sign compositions and stylistic currents, which curator and art historian Melania Gazzotti tells La Voce di New York.

Leo Lionni, Fortune, February 1960

Melania, how was the exhibition conceived and what were the selection criteria?
“The idea comes from the meeting with the other two curators, the Americans Patricia Belen and Greg D’Onofrio from the studio Friendly Company. D.in time we studied the influence of illustrators and graphs Italians about American visual culture in the twentieth century, and we immediately realized that it was a concrete theme. Many of the Italian creatives had actually moved to the United States or had worked with American companies, pstarting from Depero – who was the pioneer – who arrived in New York in 1928. The selected graphic designers are not only Italians by birth, but also personalities who came to Italy from abroad: in fact, Milan in the fifties, sixties and seventies was the center of industrial and graphic production in Italy and many creatives belonging to the Milanese school also had collaborations with abroad. Createries that subsequently reached the United States and whose production was influenced by the different visual and cultural landscape. The exhibition “Italian Types” is not just a journey into the world of images: it is a look at the culture, identity and vision of people who have put themselves into the game to bring out what they loved most, some of their choice, others in distress escaped from the terrible persecutions of the thirties and forties. An exhibition that becomes a life story told through the images and artistic expressions that have created the history of Italian and American graphics. “

Giulio Cittato, Theater, Chicago Cultural Communication Project, 1966

What are the key features that set Italian graphics apart from the rest of the world?
“Before the 1950s, there were more personalities than a real school. For example, Depero’s style comes from different experiences, but also from its unique character. Furthermore, names like Lionni, Giusti, Depero artists, illustrators, graphic designers … all-round creative figures were influenced by the historical avant-garde of the art world. In the fifties, sixties and seventies, the Milanese school had its own distinctive character, which made it known outside Italy as well, despite the fact that the personalities who belonged to it were very heterogeneous. The second major event that characterized Italian graphics from a stylistic point of view, and is also one of the themes of the exhibition, is the creation of the Unimark studio – the first international agency founded in 1965 in Chicago by Massimo Vignelli, Bob Noorda, Ralph Eckerstrom, James Fogelman, Wally Gutches, Larry Kleinaveva – characterized by a very specific style, in a mixture of Milan’s school and American commercial needs “.

How did Italian graphics change American visual culture?
“It is a combination of elements and factors. The Italian graphics – playful, colorful and organic – in turn influenced by the most stringent Swiss graphic design, managed to blend the diversity of the United States, not only absorb its culture, but also respond to market needs “.

What is the secret behind the success of Italian graphics in the United States?
“The creative freshness and the different imaginary. The creative of the time transferred to the United States everything that had been developed in Europe up to that moment and Italy, in particular, with its undisputed tradition in graphics. The thirties were crucial, an era in which graphic design, unfortunately used for propaganda, represented the avant-garde, but also the economic boom of the sixties and the birth of companies led by enlightened entrepreneurs – I think Olivetti, but not only that – they have understood the strength and power of communication. To promote its tires, Pirelli engaged the best Italian graphic designers to create campaigns that are still masterpieces today, as well as La Rinascente, an authentic creative hotbed where the biggest names in graphic design have worked ”.

Massimo Vignelli, Bertoia, 1968
Paolo Garretto, Fortune, February 1932

Who do you think are the new masters of the modern world?
“The scene today is very fragmented: the advent of the digital has changed the possibilities a lot. There are personalities that continue to give life to interesting images, but globalization has certainly subtracted the various stylistic characteristics that were evident in the twentieth century. in the Italian, Swiss, Dutch and English schools.

On the other hand, to what extent can the masters of Italian graphics still be considered modern and why?
“They are still contemporary because their creations go beyond purely commercial work: they are artistic expressions adapted to the needs of the market. Highlight how much graphics can become meaningful and meaningful “.

Italian types: Graphic designers from Italy in America
exhibition curated by Melania Gazzotti, Patricia Belen, Greg D’Onofrio
March 21-2. May 2019
Italian Cultural Institute of New York
686 Park Ave – New York
www.iicnewyork.esteri.it

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