Modern Geometries: Posters from the Atomic Age Onward

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Playful, happy, geometric, and bold: post-World War II, poster styles altered in response to the emerging trends in lifestyle and architecture. Make a Modern statement!

132. Quicksilver Messenger Service. 1967.
Artist: Victor Moscoso
14 x 20 in./35.5 x 50.8 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200.

Victor Moscoso’s poster for the March 10-11, 1967 Peacock Ball at the Avalon, with the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Steve Miller Blues Band, and The Daily Flash, certainly delivers the paisleyfied efflorescence of ’60s San Francisco. Today, the famous fashion designer Anna Sui embraces Moscoso as one of her favorite artists and this piece holds pride-of-place in her kitchen, according to a New York Times Profile in Style.

45. Kritic am Auto. 1985.
Artist: Anonymous (orig. Oti Aicher)
35 5/8 x 50 3/8 in./90.5 x 128 cm
Est: $700-$900.

Otl Aicher was one of the 20th century’s most influential designers and typographers: a master of the minimalist signifier. his rounded stick-figure iconographs, introduced at the 1972 Munich Olympics, not only created the signage for the Olympics from then onward; the U.S. Department of Transportation adopted the template in 1974 and just about all the pictograms you see on highways today are originals or adaptations of Aicher’s design work. This poster serves to advertise a Munich exhibition surrounding his 1984 book, “Critique of the Automobile.”

191. Sun Valley / Gretchen Fraser. 1949.
Artist: Anonymous
25 3/8 x 37 7/8 in./64.6 x 96.2 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500.

Sun Valley’s slopes are graced by Gretchen Fraser, “the first U.S. women’s Olympic gold and silver medalist, at the 1948 St. Moritz Games.” She doubled for Sonja Henje in the ski scenes of the movies “Thin Ice” and “Sun Valley Serenade.”

292. Madama Butterfly. ca. 1989.
Artist: K. Domenic Geissbuhler
35 1/2 x 50 3/8 in./90.3 x 127.8 cm
Est: $700-$900.

In the 1980s and ’90s, Geissbühler created most of the posters for the Zurich Opera Co. They have become quite collectable – for good reason.

343. Rolex. 1959.
Artist: Herbert Leupin
35 1/2 x 50 3/8 in./90.3 x 128 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500.

Today’s ad industry is completely insane. Far more so than in the Mad Men days. Thousands of hours of consumer research, attitudinal studies, focus groups, messaging analysis, A/B tests, marketing funnels, networks, competitive psy-ops… Once upon a time, long ago, it was simple. Idea. Art. Message. Rolex’s logo is a kingly crown. Rolex watches are regal instruments. Rolex is the choice of kings. One and done, says Herbert Leupin, now where’s my martini?

367. Lion Noir. 1949.
Artist: Charles Loupot
63 1/8 x 46 1/4 in./160.2 x 117.5 cm
Est: $35,000-$40,000.

Brilliant, formidable, riveting and bold – Loupot’s indelible emblem for Lion Noir Shoe Polish is one of the clear masterpieces of post-war graphic art. It’s exceptionally rare; this is only the second we’ve encountered “in the wild” in 73 auctions, and this copy comes directly from the Loupot estate.

373. Lincoln Park. 1965.
Artist: John Massey
35 x 49 7/8 in./88.8 x 126.8 cm
Est: $700-$900.

John Massey, Artistic Director of the Container Corporation of America, produced a series of posters for the City of Chicago. Here, the great expanse of the 1,208-acre Lincoln Park, on the lakeside of Chicago’s North Side, is there for you to “run jump play look walk think dream.”

409. Musica Viva. 1956.
409. Musica Viva. 1956.
Artist: Josef Muller-Brockmann
35 5/8 x 50 1/4 in./90.3 x 127.6 cm
Est: $700-$900.

When biographers write about the graphic-design career of Joseph Müller-Brockmann, they all concentrate on the designer’s “Musica Viva” series – a landmark evolution in translating emotional structures of music into the language of advertising. “They do not try to imitate musical notation, but they evoke the very sounds of music by visual equivalents – not a simple task,” wrote Paul Rand, his fellow graphic designer for IBM. Indeed: using a slate, silver and gold palette, he manages to catch both the atonal discontinuities and the fervent vitality in the work of Schönberg and Stravinsky.

419. Menswear.
Artist: Hiroshi Ohchi
28 3/4 x 40 5/8 in./73 x 103.2 cm
Est: $800-$1,000.

A whimsical advertisement for men’s clothing. Hiroshi Ohchi is legendary in the Japanese graphic arts for his creation of the influential art magazine IDEA, which broke new ground in its use of geometry and color. Ohchi has few rivals in his ability to combine seemingly clashing patterns in harmony: very much an indelible mark of his work, and of this poster as well.

455. UCLA Asian Performing Arts Institute/Nihon Buyo. 1981.
Artist: Ikko Tanaka
28 3/4 x 40 1/2 in./73 x 103 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

A geisha is brilliantly abstracted into geometric form: a specialty of Ikko Tanaka, who created a style of graphic design that fused modernist principles and aesthetics with the Japanese tradition. It’s probably Tanaka’s most representative work, among a portfolio that includes work for Mazda and Issey Miyake. It’s one of a series of twelve posters made by Japan’s leading graphic artists for the 1981 Asian Performing Arts Festival held at UCLA. Nihon Buyo refers to a Japanese performing art that includes elements of dance and pantomime.

480. Levi's. 1971.
Artist: Ida van Bladel
25 x 37 in./63.5 x 94 cm
Est: $800-$1,000.

Ooh, cheeky! Long before Americans were scandalized by an adolescent Brooke Shields insinuating that “nothing comes between me and my Calvins,” the Dutch were taking full advantage of their more liberal attitudes to sexuality. Succinct, unmistakable in meaning, practically wordless, and immediately eye-catching: perhaps the perfect poster for the 20th century’s, errm, bottom half.

492. Word & Image/Museum of Modern Art. 1968.
Artist: Tadanori Yokoo
17 x 48 5/8 in./43.3 x 123.5 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000.

For the greatest, splashiest, most magnificent exhibition of poster art the 20th century had yet seen, New York’s Museum of Modern Art turned to Tadanori Yokoo. Often (and unfairly) called “the Japanese Andy Warhol,” Yokoo clearly ran on the same ground as Warhol – converting the pop, the trash, the smash and the flash into extraordinary objects that sent up commercialization even as they participated in it. MoMA’s 1968 exhibition was hailed by the New York Times as “a landmark presentation that helped define the medium for scholars, graphics specialists and collectors.” Yokoo’s exhibition poster, one of his first appearances in the American art scene, helped it get there: a rendering of the art form as a hypnotic calling toward the eye.