Postmodernism and Constructivism.
Postmodernism, or sometimes referred to as PoMo, is a movement that I have become more familiar with throughout my study of visual communications. I recognise it as a trend of turning against traditional means commonly used in art and design practices in past movements. It rebels against modernist techniques and questions their impact on society. For example, ‘appropriation’ is a common tool used in the PoMo movement for it re-uses past works, images, symbols and slogans to then alter them to create a new meaning or communicate a stronger message. It is with techniques like this that PoMo artists were able to stand out and expand the restrictions forced upon designers.
Paula Scher is a PoMo designer who is most recognisable for her tendency to rebel against the set rules of typography in advertising. One of the most recognisable works that she had created for ‘The Public Theatre’ titled Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da funk, demonstrates an overwhelming use of text with an unstructured layout. This layout screams a PoMo aesthetic for it refuses the use of alignment. The alignment of text and figure has almost been scattered across the page. Although this seems very haphazard, it effectively communicates to the audience the subject matter of the event.
The text almost looks like it is bouncing across the page and to have this kinetic sequencing coincide with the lively figure signifies a theatrical performance of dance. The way Scher has clustered the text and removed any sight of white space definitely achieves its attempt to grab an audiences’ attention. Having a light background assists in emphasising the foreground through contrast, especially the centred figure filled with dark tones.
This work also demonstrates Paula’s innovative ability to create relationships between the forms in the poster. To further explain, it was most likely that during your first glance of the image that you recognised the dancing figure first. This is due to not only being placed in the centre of the poster but also its contrasting large scale to the smaller text surrounding. Due to Paula’s technical approach of tilting majority of the text, the text itself almost work as arrows as the point towards the figure. All of these factors work together to create a visual path for the audience to follow with their eyes towards the main feature of the poster.
I would lastly like to express that I find the Postmodern movement to be very vital in terms of graphic design, especially in terms of advertisements and marketing. It is vital to create a piece of work that stands out to make a statement. Using Postmodern techniques such as appropriation, using symbols, images and shapes that are recognisable from past use, it will make the audience have a quicker reaction of recognition, thus grabbing their attention. Sometimes there is the case of an audience having a bad reaction to certain works for rebelling or for the re-use of images. More than once a designer has been accused of copyright. But, nonetheless, it still creates attention and communicates a strong message to the public.
This Russian based movement was born through inspiration from other movements such as Dadaism, Futurism and Cubism (Berry 2017). Like Postmodernism, Constructivism had made a stride against traditional techniques and stands out through its use of bold texts and colours. Although, unlike Postmodern designer Paula Scher, this movement thrives off streamline borders and strong texts with perfect alignments. Artists from this movement take full advantage of geometric structures within the foreground and background of an image. At first glance, designs at this time could be mistaken for propaganda pieces and this is due to a lot of the works being influenced by current political events. To dive into this further, we can look at artist Alexander Rodchenko and his piece titled Books (Please)! In All Branches of Knowledge.
The poster symbolises a strong political movement through the use of bold geometric aligned shapes that are filled by strong contrasting reds and blacks. This overall emotes a sense of will-power to the audience. The figure and the form of the shapes make us recognise that it has a connection to politics almost instantly even without context. What also assists the poster to stand out is having the centred shapes tilted. Such a simple technique has made the shapes work as if they were arrows pointing towards the woman’s face. This visual path directs our gaze to the centred face, which out of the whole image, communicates the most emotion. Overall, these two features have individual vital roles and to have them coincide together creates a ‘form relationship’. Not only does this relationship create a visual path but also create a sense of kinetic synergy. For example, the geometric shape aligned to the mouth of the figure works as a speech bubbles as it holds some text. This reinforces that the female is shouting proudly.
In terms of the colours used, having a limited range makes the image seem more structured and clean-cut. The strong use of red and black contrasts with the background of the design, thus enhancing the political reference communicated in the image. The figure eludes a grainy texture that resembles ‘retro’ photography, and this could also assist in communicating a sense of seriousness through the grey tones.
Through unpacking the image and uncovering each technique used, makes Rodchenko’s art-making process easier to understand. His attention to the relationship of all the elements in the image demonstrates his professional capabilities as an influential designer of the 20th century.
Berry, C 2017, ‘Constructivist Art & Design, An imaginary excursion to Eastern-Europe’, Medium, weblog post, 8 September, viewed 18 March 2019, <https://medium.com/inside-vbat/constructivist-art-design-95ed961a98be>.
Paula, S 1995, Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, image, Make It Bigger, viewed 13 March 2019, <https://books.google.com.au/books?id=RFk9beI13-0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=paula+scher&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-9oX52P7gAhUCfisKHaLuADYQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=bring%20in%20da%20funk&f=false>.
Rodchenko, A 1924, Books (Please)! In All Branches of Knowledge, image, ARTSY, viewed 18 March 2019, <https://www.artsy.net/artwork/alexander-rodchenko-books-please-in-all-branches-of-knowledge>.