• Inventory-lead

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012 – catalogue by Inventory

Graphic Design

Labelling invisible art works – a unique exhibition graphic design brief from Inventory Studio

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

Currently showing at the Southbank’s Hayward Gallery is an extraordinary group show of works of art that are, for all intents and purposes, invisible. Such art has raised the collective hackles of red-top papers with contentious cries of “can’t see what all the fuss is about modern art?” A sentiment echoed in some of the best comments I have ever had the pleasure of reading, i.e., direct quote: “Art it isn’t i hate that if a normal people does it its nothing but if an art critic says its art its art i say these art critics know nothing.”

Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012 includes works such as Yves Klein’s “architecture of air” and Tom Friedman’s plinth on which a professional witch has cast a curse directly above. Each piece evoking a spatial awareness and our understanding of that beyond the literal, new conventions and “limits of our perceptual capacities.”

A regular exhibition might have just the title of the work, the date it was made, perhaps an anecdote as to its creation or small slice of context; all of this fitted neatly to the bottom right corner of the wall below the work. But Invisible needs explanation before you can even begin to experience the artwork. For example with Friedman’s work, before you read the blurb, the lack of anything on a white cuboid is inexplicably boring as opposed to inexplicably sinister.

So these pieces of text and adjoining catalogue are suddenly elevated beyond their normal captioning status, in some cases being the only thing to focus on affords them an interesting position that they suddenly become part of the artwork itself. We spoke to Inventory, the studio responsible, to hear a little more about this unique design brief…

  • Inventory-2

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012 – catalogue by Inventory

  • Inventory-1

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012 – catalogue by Inventory

  • Inventory-3

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – text by 2012 – Inventory

Hardly, if ever, is the text the focal point for an exhibition – what was your approach towards the graphic experience of the show as opposed to an exhibition with classic pictures on the wall or sculpture etc?

There are physical objects in the show — there are picture frames, sheets of paper, white canvases and plinths but more often than not the work itself is void of any visual focus other than its housing, the frames etc. As director and curator of the Hayward, Ralph Rugoff has said: “Art isn’t about images it’s about ideas.” This is what is so fantastic about the concept of the exhibition and what, we think, makes it so interesting for the viewer and for us to work on.

Because of this lack of visual focus we were confronted with a dilemma – how to create a clear and very necessary explanation of a work whilst not overpowering the very subtle, or absent, nature of the works.

We did lots and lots of tests to find the optimum contrast at which type is clear and readable at a reading distance but disappears and blends in to the background when viewed from a distance. This included looking at different fonts, typesetting, colours, finishes and sizes. In the end we found that using a single stroke monospace font at 13% black, set within a 3% black painted panel we could create the desired effect.

Although the results are very subtle it was an incredibly interesting and satisfying experiment, working with such traditional elements (paint, rubdowns and masking tape) to create something so precise. The whole effort was a real collaboration between ourselves, the curators, the printers and the installers and all credit to the curation team for pushing this radical idea to its limits. The director of the gallery Ralph actually mentioned that we has solved the problem that always faces curators with regards to labelling and that we should perhaps look in to patenting the process.

And you produced a takeaway that again, is text heavy, but also very cheap for a catalogue – what was the concept behind this?

The concept for the catalogue/guide was led by production limits at first: it had to be cheap enough that most people would buy it, that and Ralph and Nadine Monem from Hayward Publishing were both keen on the idea that it could be rolled up, put in your pocket and really used.

From there we looked at ideas like using super thin bible paper, which is actually very opaque, and eventually found a 80gsm stock that was both semi-transparent and affordable for a 96pp catalogue. The essays and artists texts we also set in the same single stroke monospace typeface used in the show graphics and printed in a grey PMS with four colour images.

We printed all the images on the verso side of the pages so they ghosted through to the recto side where the densely justified typesetting wrapped around empty spaces where the missing images should be found. The textured card cover features an image of Yves Klein in the Void Room, taken in 1961, as he is cited as a key figure in this minimalist movement.

  • Tom-friedman_-untitled-_a-curse__-1992_-photo-linda-nylind

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012: Tom Friedman, Untitled (A Curse), 1992. Photo Linda Nylind

  • Bruno-jakob_-breath_-floating-in-color-as-well-as-black-and-white-_venice__-2011

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012: Bruno Jakob, Breath, floating in color as well as black and white (Venice), 2011

  • Tom-friedman_-1000-hours-of-staring-_1992-97

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012: Tom Friedman, 1000 Hours of Staring (1992-97)

  • Carsten-holler_-the-invisible-_1998

    Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957 – 2012: Carsten Höller, The Invisible (1998)

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. List

    Way back in 2011 when we first posted the work of Frank Magnotta It’s Nice That was a very different beast – we’d only give you one image to check out and the rest was up to you. So when I stumbled across Frank’s work again this week it seemed essential that we show you a whole lot more. To be honest there have been few updates to his site in the past three years but the work is breathtaking, pulling together pop culture references, architectural precision and some serious Americana and combining it into stark surrealist landscapes. At times grotesque but always engaging, Frank’s graphite artworks are still some of the finest around.

  2. List

    Jean Jullien is many things. Artist. Illustrator. French. Recent emigre to New York. It’s Nice That favourite. So hot right now. He’s also the final artist to have a show at Kemistry Gallery’s current east London home before it closes its doors early next year (although as has been reported it has some excitingly ambitious plans).

  3. List

    American artist James Rieck paints models, but not in the way you might expect. In his huge colourful canvases he takes figures from adverts and recreates them four or five feet wide, capturing their clothes, their postures but not their faces.

  4. List

    These painted scenes from Paige Jiyoung Moon are so wonderfully intricate, a new detail pops out each time you see them. Capturing domestic scenes like people drinking coffee, friends watching a film or a family eating lunch together, it’s the mundanity of what Paige paints that makes her miniature worlds so inviting as the viewer tries to pick out some sort of irregularity.

  5. List

    It’s been a whole two years since we last posted about the marvellous work of Lynnie Zulu and we’re happy to have the illustrator’s vibrant world colouring our dull Monday once again. Her latest body of work is on show now at No Walls Gallery in Brighton and is a fantastically lively exploration of the female in all her glorious forms.

  6. List-tatiana-bruni_-the-drunkard_-costume-design-for-%e2%80%98the-bolt%e2%80%99_-1931_-courtesy-grad-and-st-petersburg-museum-of-theatre-and-music

    We’re no ballet aficionados, but we wouldn’t usually associate drunkards, typists and factory workers with the grace and poise of the discipline. However, as these beautiful gouache painting by Tatiana Bruni show, there’s much more to ballet than tutus and swan lake, with her angular figures, bold colours and sometimes grotesquely postured characters. The paintings show costume designs for Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1931 ballet The Bolt, and are going on show at London’s Gallery for Russian Arts and Design alongside a series of period photographs. The ballet itself was bold and striking in its use of real hammers, machine-inspired choreography, aerobics and acrobatics, and the costume images are equally as dynamic, inspired by “the aesthetics of agit-theatre and artist-designed propaganda posters”, according to the gallery. The sense of movement is palpable, whether in the graceful billowing dresses or the staggering legs of our brightly-coloured drunkard, working against the geometric rigidity of the style to beautiful effect.

  7. List

    The announcement that David Lynch is to release new episodes of Twin Peaks in 2016 was, unsurprisingly, met with internet-breaking levels of excitement. Soon, every Tommy, Dale and Henry Spencer was walking around their independent coffee shop knowingly harping on about their “damn fine cup of coffee” and popping that heartbreaking Angelo Badalamenti theme on the office stereo like they’d actually watched every episode back in 1990, when they were five.

  8. List-studio9

    Not since we saw the Doge meme IRL on a street in Hackney have we been this excited by the face of a strange dog. Now, we’re excited by many strange dog faces, thanks to what looks set to be a brilliant show by Wilfrid Wood. Wilfrid’s work has long been a favourite at It’s Nice That, and has over the years included sculptures of Tom Daley and Paul McCartney and numerous bottoms for Levis.

  9. List-31_wl-work-01

    Man of many talents Will Edmonds has some great new work on his site in the geometric shape of these colourful framed pieces and paintings on wood. There’s a childlike simplicity against a more grown-up restraint in the works, which draw you in with colour and keep you there with the deceptively intricate layers. The works were created for an exhibition entitled A Watery Line at The Tetley in Leeds in summer 2014, where he was also showing sculptures and ceramics.

  10. List

    London is a brilliant city, but in the winter months it can be a grey and grizzly place to live. That’s why artists like Steve Wheen, aka The Pothole Gardner, are so important in bringing a little colour and joy to our day-to-day lives. To promote Uniqlo’s new HEATTECH range, which has been specially developed with leading textile manufacturer Toray, the clothing brand is showcasing creative types who take on the urban outdoors come rain or shine, from foodies and cyclists to graffiti artists.

  11. List

    I can’t quite believe that it’s two years since we last featured Alex Roulette’s work on the site because he’s undoubtedly one of our favourite artists working today. The New York based painter creates scenes which “explore the blurred sense of time and place within memories” and he’s a master of the atmospheric. Looking at his paintings feels like beginning a dream when you’re pitched into a situation conjured up by your subconscious and yet instinctively know broadly where you are and what’s going on.

  12. List-2

    I’m sticking by my claim that the beach is one of the most fascinatingly liminal places going; you arrive, you take off (almost) all your clothes and you lie down, play volleyball and splash next to strangers with the same idea, and nobody thinks anything of it.

  13. List

    These painted shapes from Berlin-based Frau Grau are just wonderful with their rich, vivid tones and excellent composition. I really like the organic and uneven shapes, with each one refusing to tesselate neatly with its neighbour. The formation and assembly works fantastically, laid out like a detailed study of jewel-like pebbles and rocks found on an imagined coastline. It’s this ambiguity about what the artist is actually depicting that interests me so much.