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'Underground Images': SVA's Iconic Subway Posters Focus On Women At Auburn University
October 22, 2020 by Maeri Ferguson
SVA UGI Auburn

An installation shot from Auburn University's Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Alabama.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University.

There have been dozens of editions of Underground Images, SVA's traveling exhibition of its iconic collection of subway posters, but this time, it's different. On view through January 3, 2021, at Auburn University's Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Alabama, "Underground Images: A Half-Century of SVA Subway Posters Created by Women" features 21 pieces hand-picked by Gail Anderson, SVA's chair of the BFA Advertising and Design departments and creative director of the Visual Arts Press. This exhibition presents women artists' highlighted works from the full collection of more than 200 posters produced by SVA.

Yuko Shimizu's SVA Subway poster.

Yuko Shimizu's 2016 SVA Subway poster.

Visitors to the gallery will see such memorable posters as Audrey Flack's vibrant Crayola crayons from 1973 and an early promotion for Computer Arts in Barbara Nessim's graphic 1984 edition. In addition to Flack and Nessim, among the current and former faculty members who have designed this selection of posters are Gail Anderson, Louise Fili, Carin Goldberg, Adrienne Leban, Paula Scher, Yuko Shimizu and Julia Rothman.


Of the exhibition, Auburn University states, "Considered chronologically, more than four decades of striking graphic design emerge from the discrete lens of women creators. Many of the posters also reflect the artists' interests and cultural backgrounds, as in Louise Fili's 2011 and 2016 predominantly-typographical pieces, or Yuko Shimizu's designs that overtly meld in her Japanese heritage. Eye-catching and often imbued with social messages, the works are marked by optimism and an invitation for creativity, encouraging the viewer to 'Fly Higher' and 'Make It Here.'"

Gail Anderson's 2018 SVA Subway poster.

Gail Anderson's 2018 SVA Subway poster.

Louise's Fili's 2014 SVA Subway poster.

Louise's Fili's 2014 SVA Subway poster.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, SVA was in the vanguard of academic institutions in the U.S. to recognize the need for alternative marketing strategies to attract new students. SVA took to the platforms of New York City's subway with advertising posters that 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 SVA faculty used the poster commission to explore what it means to be an artist and hone their own creative voice. Like the College itself, the SVA subway posters have become in some way inseparable from the city as an incitement to creativity and risk-taking.