Saturday, September 23, 2006

Seeing Red

On Thursday evening, HRCFS colleague Jake Dunagan and I were privileged to help out at the opening of a powerful and innovative new art exhibition, Seeing Red, in Honolulu's Chinatown.


This quote from Woodrow Wilson emblazons the literature explaining the purpose of Seeing Red, which is to provide graphic designers with a rare and much needed outlet for their political passions and social concerns. Three talented young designers, friends of ours affiliated with Wall to Wall Studios here in Honolulu (Jesse Arneson, Chris Thomas, and Julia Zimmerman) conceived and curated the project, and as they describe it; folks in the graphic design profession are constantly being called upon to use their skills to communicate other people's messages, many of them formulated with nothing more profound in mind than simple commercial promotion. So why not invite designers to use those same skills to raise public awareness about issues deserving wider or closer attention; the things that make them angry? Hence the title.

The screenprinted posters designed for Seeing Red are simple, vivid and exceptionally striking, and all are black and red on a white background, lending strong aesthetic consistency despite enormous variation in styles and messages across the 35 contributions. Many Hawaiian artists are represented in the mix, as well as a number of internationally recognised designers, such as Milton Glaser, creator of the iconic "I love New York" logo. (The poster featured above, which so eloquently addresses the danger of mixing religion and politics, is "WARNING", by Chaz Maviyane-Davies in Harare, Zimbabwe.)

All proceeds from poster sales go to the artist's nominated charity, so the activist theme goes deeper than mere appearances. As the Seeing Red website states: "Our attempt is to create more than a dialogue. We are attempting to create a tangible method of bettering the world." In my view this project is a great example of conscientiously and usefully "marketing a way of thinking", as discussed at The Sceptical Futuryst in this earlier post.

There is also an exhibition of posters produced by sixth-grade students at a local school, using the same design parameters, and the chaotic energy of these youngsters at the opening on Thursday was stupendous. If you thought children, art, and politics wouldn't mix, there's another reason check out this show. Seeing Red will be at the Pegge Hopper Gallery in Honolulu until 26 October, before touring to Pittsburgh (and possibly other cities). You can contact the organisers, and make a donation to help cover their costs, through the project website.

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