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The Masters Series: Steven Heller

October 22 - December 8

A building where what looks to be an exhibition might be taking place.
"The Masters Series: Steven Heller," October 22 – December 8, 2007

The Masters Series: Steven Heller 

October 22 - December 8, 2007
Reception: Monday, October 22, 6 - 8pm
Lecture: Tuesday, October 23, 7pm 

"Steven Heller has been graphic design's biggest fan." - Paula Scher, Partner, Pentagram 

School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York City, will honor Steven Heller with the Masters Series Award and retrospective exhibition. He is the author, co-author or editor of over 100 books on graphic design, illustration and political art, was an art director at The New York Times for 33 years and is a columnist for The New York Times Book Review. Heller is also the co-founder and co-chair of the MFA Design Department and co-founder of the MFA Design Criticism Department at SVA.

Curated and designed by Kevin O'Callaghan, chair of 3D Design at SVA, the exhibition highlights the inspiration and collaboration behind Heller's many achievements as a writer and art director. On view will be over 100 covers of The New York Times Book Review that Heller art directed and a visual anthology of his major publications, with select volumes available to peruse. An adjacent video installation will feature interviews with co-authors Mirko Ilic, Lita Talarico (co-chair of the MFA Design Department at SVA), Seymour Chwast, Marshall Arisman (chair of the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department at SVA) and Gail Anderson (on the faculty of the MFA Design Department at SVA) about their collaborative process. Nearby, visitors will be able to browse Heller's many contributions to American and foreign periodicals at a full-scale replica of a New York City newsstand. The centerpiece of the multimedia display will be a larger-than-life photo montage of Heller's library with recorded commentary about his collection of design ephemera and its role in his research and writing. In a series of video podcasts specially commissioned for the exhibition, Heller will discuss design in the context of popular culture, politics and history.

"Steven Heller has immortalized our graphic past and made coherence of our present," said Paula Scher, the designer behind such graphic icons as the Citibank logo and recipient of the 2002 Masters Series Award. A longtime colleague of Heller's on the faculty at SVA, Scher will design the exhibition catalog, poster, banner and invitation. Ralph Caplan, author of the now-classic By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons (Turtleback, 2005), will write the catalog essay.

Steven Heller was an aspiring teen cartoonist in the late 1960s when he found a receptive audience at New York's underground papers, first as a contributing artist at the Avatar, then as the art director of the New York Free Press, New York Review of Sex and Screw. "I had no idea what I was doing," says Heller of his first foray into art direction, the June 27, 1967 edition of the Free Press. Originally hired to be the paper?s mechanical artist, he had to learn typesetting, paste up and other fundamentals on the job. He soon developed a love for layout and design, but a stint at NYRS was cut short when a crackdown on the sex press caused the paper to fold. At Screw, a journal of cultural criticism pegged to sex, Heller worked with then up-and-coming illustrators like Brad Holland, Ed Sorel and Marshall Arisman.

In 1974, Heller's appreciation for political illustration and social commentary led him to The New York Times. He was made art director of the Op-Ed page, then the Book Review, and became a senior art director in 1980. During his tenure, the publication was reinvigorated as a platform for contemporary American illustration. In 1992, Heller?s byline began appearing in the paper as he wrote obituaries of design luminaries like Henry Wolf, Paul Rand and Tibor Kalman. Soon his writings about about popular visual culture were appearing in The Week in Review, Arts & Leisure, and Weekend sections, in addition to design-related book reviews. Heller is now a consulting art director at the paper and has a column entitled Visuals, a quarterly roundup of books about visual culture.

Free and open to the public
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