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Book Review: Seymour

Seymour Chwast - CoverSurely you must know the name of Seymour Chwast, right? As the co-founder of legendary graphic design studio Push Pin, he was a prime mover in deflating the pomposity of modernism and ushering in the freer, more whimsical visual styles that defined the ’60s and ’70s. On a personal note, he was also one of the first artists whose work I noticed in books such as American Illustration 1982-83. One look at Chwast’s charming yet sophisticated imagery made me say “I want to do that” (side note: I’m still attempting to do that). Several decades of Chwast’s art, both commercial and personal, have been assembled in a handsome new book titled Seymour: The Obsessive Images Of Seymour Chwast.

This is one cool book. Most of its 262 pages are just what the title says: images, one to a page or spread, with annotations confined to the back few pages. Everything is grouped thematically in topics such as war, food, fashion and sex. There’s also the occasional oddball subject, such as a series of Mexican Wrestler pieces Chwast did in 2002. Although the art dates from as early as the 1960s and encompasses a wide variety of media (dig the cut sheet metal plates of food), certain things have remained constant in his work. A sense of whimsy is first and foremost. The re-purposing of various early 20th century design styles is also ever-present. Chwast also seems to have a constant fascination with exploring humankind’s frailties in a lighthearted way. The uselessness of war and the attraction of consumption are themes that come up over and over again in his work. The biggest impression I get here is that the man is a non-stop art machine. The introductory essay by famed Push Pin designer (and Mrs. Chwast) Paula Scher confirms it. I wonder if he ever has times when he turns the creativity switch “off.”

Seymour: The Obsessive Images Of Seymour Chwast is published by Chronicle. Buy at Amazon.com here.

Seymour Chwast - Spread1

Seymour Chwast - Spread2

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