Elevating the Underground

“Underground Images” brings together 60 of the myriad posters created at SVA for display in the vast New York City subway system, offering a glimpse into the history of the College and the collective talent of its acclaimed design and illustration faculty. The exhibition was curated by SVA Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes, who has served as creative director for the posters since 2007.

In the mid-1950s, SVA was at the vanguard of academic institutions pursuing new strategies to attract students. SVA took its message to previously unplumbed depths, to the platforms of the subway system. Its advertising posters were both thought-provoking and eye-catching, featuring the work of legendary artists like Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser and George Tscherny. All practicing professionals on the faculty at SVA, they used the poster commissions to explore the possibilities of graphic art, and to hone their personal voices on a public stage. Like the College itself, SVA’s subway posters have become New York City icons, as well as incitements to creativity and risk-taking.

The 37 artists in “Underground Images” include Peter Ahlberg, Gail Anderson, Marshall Arisman, Chris Buzelli, Gene Case, Ivan Chermayeff, Paul Davis, Pablo Delcan, Sal De Vito, Stephen Doyle, Louise Fili, Audrey Flack, Nathan Fox, Bob Gill, Robert Giusti, Milton Glaser, Phil Hays, Steven Heller, Mirko Ilić, Viktor Koen, Stephen Kroninger, Marvin Mattelson, Clay Patrick McBride, James McMullan, Jerry Moriarty, Tony Palladino, Edel Rodriguez, Julia Rothman, Jonathon Rosen, Stefan Sagmeister, David Sandlin, Paula Scher, Yuko Shimizu, Eve Sonneman, George Tscherny, James Victore and Robert Weaver.

“Underground Images” is organized by SVA faculty member Mirko Ilić and Francis Di Tommaso, director, SVA Galleries.

The full collection of posters in the exhibition can be seen in this Flickr gallery.

Exhibition Tour 

  • Cage Gallery at Edna Manley College, Kingston, Jamaica: October 9—November 11, 2019

  • Universidad CAECE, Mar del Plata, Argentina: September 26–November 5, 2019

  • CHAVÓN | La Escuela de Diseño, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: March 16–April 26, 2019

  • HIT Holon Institute of Technology, Holon, Israel: February 26–March 27, 2019

  • Pixel Show, Pro Magno, São Paulo, Brazil: November 10–12, 2018

  • MEDIUM Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia: October 4–28, 2018

  • IED Istituto Europeo di Design, Italy: October 1–November 30, 2018

  • National Library of Moldova, Chișinău, Moldova: July 14 - September 14, 2018

  • designforum Wien, Vienna: March 13–April 22, 2018

  • De Affiche Galerij, The Hague, Holland: February 1–March 6, 2018

  • 3sec Gallery, Breda, Holland: January 24–April 8, 2018

  • The Future, RDS, Dublin: November 3–4, 2017

  • designforum Steiermark, Graz: October 27–November 11, 2017

  • La Escuela Artediez, Madrid: October, 2017

  • Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland: June 10–24, 2016

  • Centre for Creative Arts and Media, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland: March 2–April 8, 2016

  • Rosefsky Art Gallery, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York: February 12–March 11, 2016

  • Museo San Francisco, La Paz, Bolivia: November 16–21, 2015

  • Lisbon, Portugal: November 13–December 20, 2015

  • Instituto Tom Jobim, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: November 5–December 6, 2015

  • KDJ convention center, Gwangju, Korea: October 19–23, 2015

  • AIGA Design Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana: October 8–10, 2015

  • Pontificia Universidad Católica, Quito, Ecuador: September 23–October 23, 2015

  • New Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia: May 22–June 28, 2015

  • The University of Texas at Arlington, Max W. Sullivan Gallery: April 6–27, 2015

  • KCDF Gallery, Seoul: April 1–21, 2015

  • International Poster Competition, Skopje, Macedonia: December 7–20, 2014

  • Sangmyug University, Seoul, South Korea: November 7–13, 2014

  • MUIP Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey: October 16–November 14, 2014

  • Golden Bee Moscow International Biennial of Graphic Design: October 7–12, 2014

  • Villa Méditerranée, Marseille, France: Co-presented by Alliance française des designers (AFD/French Designers Alliance), Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Marseille (CCI), Moneydesign and Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur: July 15–20, 2014

  • Gallery Izidor Krsnjavi, School of Applied Arts and Design, Zagreb, Croatia: Co-presented by HDD and UBU in conjunction with Dan-D (D-Day): May 26–June 9, 2014

  • HOW Design Live, Boston: May 12–16, 2014

  • Atelier Dado Gallery, National Museum of Montenegro, Cetinje: April 26–May 16, 2014

  • Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, China: April 12–May 3, 2014

  • Knez Mihailova Street, Belgrade, Serbia: April 4–22, 2014

  • Academy of Fine Arts, Sarajevo: Co-presented by Students Organizing Sarajevo (SOS) Design Festival: October 9–23, 2013

  • “SVA Subway Posters: A Half Century of Iconic Graphic Design”: Taipei Artist Village, Taiwan: November 4–9, 2006