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Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900–1940

October 1, 2021 | Monica Obniski

On view December 10, 2021–April 24, 2022

Poster from the Kunstgewerbe Museum Zurich. Black and white photo of two faces merging above the facade of a building; "USSR" is in red type across the foreheads of the two faces.

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890–1941), USSR Russische Ausstellung (USSR Russian Exhibition), 1929, rotogravure on paper, Merrill C. Berman Collection.

Through nearly fifty works, Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900–1940 will survey the origins of experimental poster design through the collection of Merrill C. Berman. Berman’s collection represents a complex history of modernism in the twentieth century, when avant-garde artists actively produced fine and applied art for commercial and political aims. The exhibition begins by examining posters from Central Europe from the early 1900s, with a focus on the pioneering efforts of German designer Lucian Bernhard and the Sachplakat, or “object poster.”

The origins of modern graphic design, as practiced in Europe, may be found in avant-garde art movements, including Constructivism (which placed typography and graphic design on the same level as architecture, painting, and sculpture), Futurism, and Dada (which helped free typography from traditional layouts). Much of the exhibition is devoted to the New Typography that emerged across Central Europe and Soviet Russia during the 1920s, with work by Herbert Bayer, El Lissitzky, Ladislav Sutnar, and Jan Tschichold. Disrupting Design reveals the idea that at its core, the poster advertises something—whether it is a product, an idea, or an ideology.


Curatorial Talk: Monica Obniski on Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900–1940
December 16, 2021, 7 p.m. 
Hear from Monica Obniski, the High’s Decorative Arts and Design Curator, as she discusses the works of several important designers from the early 1900s and contextualizes the emergence of graphic design in Europe during this period.

Talk: Ellen Lupton
March 31, 2022, 7 p.m.
Save your seat to hear from Ellen Lupton as she explores the High’s exhibition Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900–1940 and discusses her new book, Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-Racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers! She will sign copies of her book immediately following the program.

Ellen Lupton is a writer, curator, educator, and designer. She is the Betty Cooke and William O. Steinmetz Design Chair at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and she serves as a senior curator at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.

This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Delta Air Lines

Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Dr. Joan H. Weens Estate
wish Foundation

Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Robin and Hilton Howell

The Antinori Foundation
Corporate Environments
Elizabeth and Chris Willett

Farideh and Al Azadi
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
Helen C. Griffith
Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Dr. Joe B. Massey
Margot and Danny McCaul
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Wade Rakes and Nicholas Miller
The Fred and Rita Richman Fund
In Memory of Elizabeth B. Stephens
USI Insurance Services
Mrs. Harriet H. Warren

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund