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Rick Poynor
Blog | Biography | About | Books | Articles & Essays | Public Speaking | Uncanny | Other Exhibitions | Contact

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design


Guest curator: Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery curator: Marta Sylvestrová
Exhibition design: Šárka Ziková
Exhibition graphics: Adam Machácek and Sébastien Bohner

Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic
23 June to 24 October 2010

Kunsthal, Rotterdam, Netherlands
24 September to 4 December 2011

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design, conceived and curated by Poynor for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, is the first major exhibition to explore the influence of Surrealism on graphic image-making and graphic design. Featuring more than 250 items — posters, prints, books, magazines, record sleeves, typefaces and films — Uncanny investigates the profound impact of Surrealist ideas and images on visual communication from the 1930s to the present.

The exhibition presents this material in seven sections. “Birth of the Marvelous” uncovers the origins of Surrealist design. “The Polymorphous Image” shows diverse examples of fantastical transformation. “The Surreal Body” focuses on treatments of anatomy, including the body in fragments and the eye. “Cabinets of Wonder” traces the influence of the Wunderkammer on graphic image-making. “Obscure Objects of Desire” considers the portrayal of woman as Surrealist muse. In “The Liberated Letterform” the alphabet assumes bizarre new shapes and words become as malleable and potent as other kinds of surreal image. “Dream Cinema” shows short films made by graphic artists under the spell of Surrealism.

Uncanny includes images and designs by Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen, Jindřich Heisler, Jan Švankmajer, Eva Švankmajerová, Josef Vylet’al, Karel Teissig (Czechoslovakia); Roman Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica, Franciszek Starowieyski, Bronislaw Zelek (Poland); M/M (Paris), Marion Bataille, Laboratoires CCCP (France); Andrzej Klimowski, Vaughan Oliver, Quay Brothers, Graham Rawle (UK); Elliott Earls, Brian Schorn, Edward Fella, Jonathon Rosen (US), and many others.

This cornucopia of images shows that graphic design, too, can sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.”

Uncanny is available to tour internationally from Barbican International Enterprises.

Uncanny, Moravian Gallery

The Polymorphous Image: sculpture by Jan Švankmajer (foreground)

The Polymorphous Image

The Polymorphous Image: The Secret by Andrzej Klimowski (main wall)

The Surreal Body: Laboratoires CCCP and Stefan Sagmeister (main wall)

Cabinets of Wonder

Obscure Objects of Desire: Galerie by Bohumil Štěpán

Photographs: Moravian Gallery

Uncanny, Kunsthal

Exhibition entrance and title

The Polymorphous Image: collages (left) and sculpture by Jan Švankmajer

The Polymorphous Image: posters by Franciszek Starowieyski

The Surreal Body and Cabinets of Wonder

The Liberated Letterform: Les manifestes du surréalisme designed by Pierre Faucheux

The Liberated Letterform: alphabet by Roman Cieslewicz used on Ray Gun by David Carson

Photographs: Kunsthal
Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design.

Recent Essay

Exposure: Marlene Dietrich Billboard by Brassaï

Superhuman mystique of a star

Recent Book

Uncanny Surrealism and Graphic Design
Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery, 2010
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