Mad Men Style: Mid-Century Modern Posters

 

International Poster Gallery proudly presents Mad Men Style: Mid-Century Modern Posters, a retrospective and sale of over 50 original posters from 1950 to 1969. The exhibition takes place in our SoWa gallery through April 21st and features a broad range of posters from noted artists including David Klein, Stan Galli, Paul Rand, Herbert Leupin, Josef Muller-Brockmann and many more.

 


Shop the Exhibition →


 

The exhibition takes its name from the popular TV series, Mad Men – the era told through the prism of an ad executive on Madison Avenue. The stage was set during the Fifties, when a return to normalcy replaced the horrors of WWII, a baby boom accelerated world-wide, and global corporations spread prosperity and optimism. The Sixties began with the promise of a real-life Camelot to match the Broadway musical, as the Kennedys moved into the White House in January 1961.

 

Despite an escalating Cold War, space race and other tensions, the confidence as well as the escapism of the new era was palpable, and was reflected in its posters. Herbert Leupin, whose brightly colored and whimsical style became the dominant look of consumer advertising around the world, created a poster for a cigarette brand that would have made Don Draper proud. Stella (1956) conveyed a relaxed self-assuredness with the cigarette label cut out to look like a smoker’s hand holding a lit cigarette.  It says cool, confident, matter of fact, lighthearted and in control - and it won a Swiss Poster of the Year award that recognized its clever appeal.

Mad Men Style: Mid-Century Modern Posters

 

International Poster Gallery proudly presents Mad Men Style: Mid-Century Modern Posters, a retrospective and sale of over 50 original posters from 1950 to 1969. The exhibition takes place in our SoWa gallery through April 21st and features a broad range of posters from noted artists including David Klein, Stan Galli, Paul Rand, Herbert Leupin, Josef Muller-Brockmann and many more.

 


Shop the Exhibition →


 

The exhibition takes its name from the popular TV series, Mad Men – the era told through the prism of an ad executive on Madison Avenue. The stage was set during the Fifties, when a return to normalcy replaced the horrors of WWII, a baby boom accelerated world-wide, and global corporations spread prosperity and optimism. The Sixties began with the promise of a real-life Camelot to match the Broadway musical, as the Kennedys moved into the White House in January 1961.

 

Despite an escalating Cold War, space race and other tensions, the confidence as well as the escapism of the new era was palpable, and was reflected in its posters. Herbert Leupin, whose brightly colored and whimsical style became the dominant look of consumer advertising around the world, created a poster for a cigarette brand that would have made Don Draper proud. Stella (1956) conveyed a relaxed self-assuredness with the cigarette label cut out to look like a smoker’s hand holding a lit cigarette.  It says cool, confident, matter of fact, lighthearted and in control - and it won a Swiss Poster of the Year award that recognized its clever appeal.

Other unmistakable images of the era reflect the same easy upbeat confidence - an Air France poster for the French Riviera featuring an alluring woman in a straw hat twirling a flower stalk in her lips, and a vermouth poster with an Audrey Hepburn look-alike sipping from a delicate cocktail glass. This youth-crazed era was also replete with anthropomorphic creatures and animals, like a cat selling yarn and a morphed penguin/giraffe hawking refrigerators.

 

The exhibition highlights poster artists of the era who were real-life Mad Men: advertising illustrators such as David Klein and Stan Galli who created the most iconic consumer ads of the period. Both from California, Klein chose to move east after WWII and became the top Broadway theater poster artist. From 1955 to 1965, Klein collaborated with the booming airline TWA to create a remarkable poster series as cheaper fares and faster flights ushered in the age of mass travel.  Klein’s work captured the wonders of each city with charm and wit, often with dazzling DayGlo color and references to each city’s landmarks. New York’s Time Square is a futuristic explosion of shapes and colors, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is part of a shimmering, pixelated skyline.

Other unmistakable images of the era reflect the same easy upbeat confidence - an Air France poster for the French Riviera featuring an alluring woman in a straw hat twirling a flower stalk in her lips, and a vermouth poster with an Audrey Hepburn look-alike sipping from a delicate cocktail glass. This youth-crazed era was also replete with anthropomorphic creatures and animals, like a cat selling yarn and a morphed penguin/giraffe hawking refrigerators.

 

The exhibition highlights poster artists of the era who were real-life Mad Men: advertising illustrators such as David Klein and Stan Galli who created the most iconic consumer ads of the period. Both from California, Klein chose to move east after WWII and became the top Broadway theater poster artist. From 1955 to 1965, Klein collaborated with the booming airline TWA to create a remarkable poster series as cheaper fares and faster flights ushered in the age of mass travel.  Klein’s work captured the wonders of each city with charm and wit, often with dazzling DayGlo color and references to each city’s landmarks. New York’s Time Square is a futuristic explosion of shapes and colors, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is part of a shimmering, pixelated skyline.

Corporations and institutions during the period were more buttoned up: posters aimed to express stability and harmony. In a tradition-bound age where the masses were still homogeneous, the Swiss Style, often called the International Typographic Style, brought a measured clarity and sense of order to a world in need of it. Posters for the Atoms for Peace conferences and an exhibition poster on plastic design both show the tight structure and sophistication of the modern corporation.

 

By the mid Sixties, as Baby Boomers became teenagers, underlying tensions burst to the surface. Civil rights, women’s lib, the peace movement, drugs, sexual liberation, communes, rock ‘n roll and one hundred other causes divided America along many fault lines. Our show closes with a nod to this contradictory paradigm of the late Mad Men era. Milton Glaser’s famous 1966 poster of Bob Dylan with technicolor hair was the beginning of this stylistic shift to a counter-culture, so-called post-modern sensibility.

 

This was just the beginning. Drugs, sexual liberation and political alienation quickly led to a brief but spectacular psychedelic poster craze in the U.S., which recalled the floral excesses of Art Nouveau, the pulsating afterimages of Op-Art, and the bizarre juxtapositions of Surrealism. And the French May Day protests in 1968 generated a school of propaganda poster art that harked back to the Soviet poster. It was a world far from Camelot.

 


Shop the Exhibition →


 

Corporations and institutions during the period were more buttoned up: posters aimed to express stability and harmony. In a tradition-bound age where the masses were still homogeneous, the Swiss Style, often called the International Typographic Style, brought a measured clarity and sense of order to a world in need of it. Posters for the Atoms for Peace conferences and an exhibition poster on plastic design both show the tight structure and sophistication of the modern corporation.

 

By the mid Sixties, as Baby Boomers became teenagers, underlying tensions burst to the surface. Civil rights, women’s lib, the peace movement, drugs, sexual liberation, communes, rock ‘n roll and one hundred other causes divided America along many fault lines. Our show closes with a nod to this contradictory paradigm of the late Mad Men era. Milton Glaser’s famous 1966 poster of Bob Dylan with technicolor hair was the beginning of this stylistic shift to a counter-culture, so-called post-modern sensibility.

 

This was just the beginning. Drugs, sexual liberation and political alienation quickly led to a brief but spectacular psychedelic poster craze in the U.S., which recalled the floral excesses of Art Nouveau, the pulsating afterimages of Op-Art, and the bizarre juxtapositions of Surrealism. And the French May Day protests in 1968 generated a school of propaganda poster art that harked back to the Soviet poster. It was a world far from Camelot.

 


Shop the Exhibition →