Posted:Jun 17, 2007

“Graphic Messages from ggg & ddd 1986-2006” Exhibition

Ginza Graphics Gallery is celebrating its 20th year with a comprehensive two part exhibition featuring approximately 170 designers, who have shown their works either at the ggg, or the ddd in Osaka during the last two decades.

Although the exhibition is no doubt best appreciated by seeing both parts – the Japanese artists in part I and the international artists in part II – if, like myself, you missed the first half, the latter is still worth seeing as a stand-alone show.

Photo courtesy of Mitsumasa Fujitsuka

The designs are displayed chronologically (loosely by decade) and range from politically-inspired posters to album covers. Each piece is accompanied by a comment from the designer, written especially for this exhibition. If you are interested in design, yet do not quite know how to appreciate them beyond their appearance alone, these notes offer insights into the concepts and ideas from the perspective of the designers themselves, while also adding a personal warmth which is otherwise often difficult to perceive in corporate, or mass-produced, posters. Unfortunately though, these comments are provided only in Japanese.

Throughout the entire exhibition, the walls are lined with thin panels showing pages of the ggg’s 20th anniversary bilingual catalogue (unfortunately not for sale), filling in the historical gaps between the exhibited works and providing depth of context. If you have the time and patience, then reading all of the panels will definitely give you a comprehensive overview of the history of design.

Photo courtesy of Mitsumasa Fujitsuka

To my untrained eye, what stood out most was the fact that, visually, the designs themselves have not changed as much as one would expect in the 20 years from 1986 – a time when technology, especially the realm of computer graphics and digital software, expanded exponentially. Rather, the chosen works show a consistent formula of ‘good idea + bold shapes/colours/images’ regardless of the time they were made. This is not to say that the posters from the 80s don’t evoke a certain nostalgia, but simply that the more contemporary works were not as laden with flashy CG as I had expected. The 2 screens downstairs showed moving images of what looked like video versions of very simple, almost mundane, posters. Perhaps a better usage of those screens would have been to show TV commercials or clips that fully utilize sound, image and movement, creating contrast between the designs in 2D and 3D mediums.

On the whole, the exhibition offers an interesting and entertaining insight into the progression of contemporary design, with a good mix of international artists from across the globe.

The 20th anniversary catalogue will be uploaded onto the Ginza Graphics Gallery’s official website in the near future.

Lena Oishi

Lena Oishi

Born in Japan in 1982, grew up in England and Australia. With a BA in Media and Communications and MA in Cinema Studies, she now lives in Tokyo as a freelance translator and occasional editor. Works include VICE Magazine, Japanese editorial supervision of "Metronome No. 11 - <i>What Is To Be Done? Tokyo</i> " (Seikosha, 2007), and translation for film and art festival catalogs. She can also interpret simultaneously if you give her enough candy. Lena likes making her eyeballs bleed after watching way too many films while eating ice cream in the dark.