Friday, 18 February 2011

Task 3 - Avant Garde

In approximately 300 words discuss the concept of the 'Avant Garde' in relation to two examples of Graphic Design. Include pictures and full references to the works you are discussing.

The term Avant Garde was derived from the French military term meaning literally the part of an army which goes ahead of the rest.  First associated with some 19th century forward thinkers who saw the social power of Artists, along with scientists and industrialists, would be leaders in society.  The term is often used in association with various Modernist groups of artists and designers from around 1908, including Cubists, Futurists and Constructivist. These groups were forward looking activists wishing to free art from the elite middle classes.    A term now applied to art and design to convey innovative, experimental work, which is judged on the originality of the vision and ideas of the artists or designer. 

                                                                   Figure 1                                                                                    Tullio D'Albisola Parole in Liberta Futurist (The words in freedom)   
      Metal cover for a book by Filippo T. Marinetti 1932

Italian writer, poet and critic Marinetti and the other poets, painters and sculptors embraced a 'new religion of speed' and their modern spirit was represented through the machine, the automobile and the aeroplane.  The metal book shown above, one of Marinetti's later Futurist manifestos, symbolises the Futurists affinity with the machine age. The book was made up of many different colours on metal pages with a metal binding.  It represents the pinnacle of the Futurist's innovations in book making, poetry and typography. 
Futurists used manifestos to spread their philosophy and also to create controversy in the academic and conservative world.  Its roots were founded in poetry, a desire to innovate language and a rejection of nostalgia.  The typography used on the front cover above is typical futurist innovative style. A mixture of newly designed typefaces, different font sizes and colours and no respect to the rules of layout.  This manifesto was printed by Lithographic process, a characteristic of Futurist books which were emblems of technical and cultural progress.

Figure 2
Postcard. For the all Unio Spartakiada spoting event. 1928. Design by Gustav Klutsis. Lithograph on cardboard

Figure 3
Artist: Gustav Klutsis & Sergei Sankin
Title: 1st of May Solidarity.
Year: 1930
Klutsis, an accomplished Constructivist after studying under Lissitzky, was a pioneer of Photomontage.  This technique went on to be adopted by other Avant Garde Russian Constructivist mainly for design supporting the program and ideology of the emerging Soviet State.  Ironically whilst emerging as Avant Garde, photomontage went on to be one of the only graphic techniques that the Progressives and Conservatives accepted as effective visual communication. 

The asymmetrical typography especially in image 3 is a Klutsis signature.  The innovative simple but bold imagery embodies the Constructivist belief that art should be a language that speaks to the masses.


Heller, S. & Chwast, S. (1988) Graphic Styles from Victorian to Post Modern London. Thames & Hudson

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