• 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. Karinhagen-itsnicethat-main

    Pottery has had a bit of a bad rep until recently when people have slowly begun to realise that it’s FUCKING BADDASS. The pottery world is creaking under the weight of the amount of thrill-seeking clay-spinners popping up all over the place making vessels for cool people to put their cacti and fennel seeds in, and so we thought we’d highlight a few people who are taking the clay world by storm. Think for a minute, if you will, how few kilns there are on this earth, and how many universities have in recent years completely shut down their ceramics department due to lack of funding and demand. Then get your head around how these guys manage to create such brilliant work at such an astonishing rate while still keeping up their day jobs. Seeing as pottery is well trendy right now, I thought I’d run down a list of my personal favourite pot-heads out there.

  2. Jr-newyorktimes-itsnicethat-list

    It’s always a joy when two creative forces we like collide and produce something that harnesses their collective talents. We’re huge fans of the team at The New York Times Magazine (so much so we interviewed design director Gail Bichler for the new issue of our Printed Pages magazine) and we love the work of JR, so the coming-together of the two was right up our street.

  3. List

    Have you ever wondered what the world might have looked like after the great Old Testament flood? What bizarre events might have followed such a freak occurrence in weather? Me neither. It’s honestly never crossed my mind. But illustrator Samuel Branton has been fixating on the idea, imagining the strange fusion of land and sea that a tumultuous rise in water levels might effect. He’s gone one step further and illustrated these fictional scenarios in miniature, taking this Regency medium and making it weird. Witness crabs beating up a wild boar, monkeys tossing an elephant in the air and a sad old sperm whale incapacitated in a tree. And Deluge is available in book form too!

  4. Aakash-itsnicethat-list

    When we last wrote about Aakash Nihalani we described his practice as a series of interventions, and now that he has graduated from playful street art compositions to full blown technological mind-blowers, that vaguery seems even more apt. His newest piece sees him create a series of interactive installations which respond to the movements of the subject stood in front of them. The video demonstrates it better than I could ever hope to, so wrap your eyes around it and try to keep your jaw off the floor. Aakash is entering a new age, people; just imagine the possibilities!

  5. Ines-longevial-itsnicethat-list

    Inès Longevial is an art director and illustrator based in Paris, whose beautiful paintings of intertwined bodies are likely to have you looking twice. She breaks up the human figure into segments in a fashion Picasso himself would admire, rendering different parts in contrasting but muted colour palettes to disguise the physicality of her subjects. The effect is quite beguiling; hands play across hips and colour distinctions hint at the seams of clothes, but nothing is clear cut. It’s a geometric play on anatomy, and it has clients including fashion brand Amélie Pichard and sportswear giants Nike coming back for more.

  6. Hannahwaldron-itsnicethat-list

    “I wish I knew how to weave,” I found myself sighing longingly while clicking through Hannah Waldron’s portfolio. The UK-based multi-disciplinary artist and designer has transitioned seamlessly from grid-based image-making to create works in textile form since completing an MFA in Textiles at Konstfack, Sweden, and it looks like she’s well at home in the medium. Map Tapestries is a series of woven works inspired by various city scenes – Kreuzberg, NYC and Venice, for example – in bright colours, evocative shapes and simple geometric forms, and it’s wonderful.

  7. Jen-stark-whirl-side-int-10

    If it isn’t broke then there’s absolutely no need to even think about fixing it, as artist Jen Stark is fully aware, and there’s nothing broken about her geometric papercut sculptures. The LA-based artist has been making such work for literally as long as It’s Nice That has been running – here’s the first time we ever posted about her, back in 2007 – and although her work continues to grow in intricacy, she’s stayed true to her roots. These days her sculptures are made more and more often inside huge, unassuming black and white boxes, recreating the feeling that you’re a child about to unbundle a giant parcel of joy on Christmas morning, and they’re still as impressive as they were eight years ago.

  8. Everybody-razzle-dazzle-1-photo-mark-mcnulty-int-list

    Sir Peter Blake has designed this fabulous dazzle ship, a Mersey Ferry that will carry commuter passengers for the next two years. Named Everybody Razzle Dazzle, Sir Peter says it’s his “largest artwork to date,” and that he was “honoured and excited to have been asked to design a dazzle image for the iconic Mersey Ferry.”

  9. Boyocollage-int-list

    Some budding young design talents fresh out of university might harbour resentment about being thrust into a new job at a design studio as a “photocopier boy” (his words), but Patrick Waugh is not one of them. Instead he took full advantage of the rich archive at his disposal in his earliest and most junior jobs to make copies. Lots of them. And then took a scalpel and some masking tape to them, and transformed them into something altogether more exciting.

  10. Stephenabela-int-main

    At first, Stephen Abela’s images are all glorious bronzed bodies, sun-drenched beaches and hazy holiday reveries. But beneath the heat, there’s something else at play too, which feels a little more disquieting. In that oft-cited Edward Hopper thing: even in the densely populated scenes there feels like there’s a loneliness. Even the speech bubbles are lonely – in fact, they’re vacant – suggesting that for all the beautiful scenery, the folk that populate it aren’t quite sure what to say or what to do. There’s a joy there, for sure, but the great thing about Stephen’s work is this complexity, and the sense that all isn’t necessarily as it seems.

  11. Int-list-carsten-holler-pic

    Merging the fun of the playground with the beauty and cerebral qualities of art, a slide will transport visitors to the Hayward Gallery entrance this summer thanks to the forthcoming Carsten Höller show, Decision.

  12. Traceyemin-mybed-int-

    Sometimes I don’t really “get” modern art, but I get Tracey Emin’s My Bed. She displayed it as a piece of art in 1998 after practically living in it for about a month following a bad breakup. Back then she was rake-thin and impish with an appetite for booze and fags, in that odd age where you’re left to fend for yourself but are not perhaps quite ready.

  13. Serenmorganjones-int-list

    With the centenary of British women receiving the partial vote coming up shortly, artist Seren Morgan Jones decided it was time to focus on the Welsh suffragists who helped to make it happen. “I think it is important to show that there is more to Wales and its history than coal mining, rugby and men,” she explains, “and to draw people’s attention to the fact Welsh women were so involved in the fight for women’s rights.”