Edward Fella’s whimsical and extremely detailed typography has had an important influence on contemporary graphic design. His signature deconstructive style, featuring colourful hand-drawn font, broke every rule in the hand-book. Fun, mad and eclectic, it is no wonder that It’s Nice That love him.
Ed began as a commercial artist in Detroit, working for 30 years before receiving an MFA in Design from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Before his retirement in 2013, he taught graphic design at CalArts where he inspired the student Bijan Berahimi. Bijan is the co-curator at Fisk Gallery, Portland and has recently created an exhibition exploring Ed Fella’s marriage between art and design, Some Odds to No Ends(s).
“As a student I spent countless nights in Ed’s studio listening to him talk about life and design”, Bijan tells us. “The relationship between Ed Fella and Fisk goes back to the beginning and this show has been 9 years in the asking”. Fisk Gallery began as a student design collective and website, for which Ed made work; he even made original lettering for the project and these can be seen in the exhibition.
“Ed demonstrated that the nuances of design are best understood outside of the day-to-day: from looking at signage in public, art films, art history, poetry, art making and sketch booking”, Bijan explains. Edward Fella’s work draws parallels to “words in freedom”, a term created by F.T. Marinetti. It describes the liberation of words from conventional syntax, and as we can see in Ed’s art, words are seen shooting across the page, in nonsensical angles and strange orders. Each letter is free upon the page; it is doing whatever it wants to, whenever it feels like it — just like the artist.
Ed shows that art and typography can be merged; his work is neither one nor the other. It highlights how graphic design does not always have to fit strict formulas, or have a practical and efficient use, but rather can be expressive, fun and free, just like painting. This show “is a culmination of the skills he has learned as a commercial artist, combined with the personal work he makes on a daily basis”. With rarely seen works, several a lot larger than his usual size, this exhibition will not fail to provide inspiration for the budding designer, showing them that typography can be crazy as well as calculated.
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