With its exhibition ‘Uncanny. Surrealism and Graphic Design', the Kunsthal Rotterdam illustrates the enduring influence of surrealism on the work of graphic designers. The exhibition comprises over 250 works including films, posters and book covers from Europe and the United States of America. Constructed around seven themes, such as the extraordinary, the grotesque and the imaginary, the exhibition examines the surrealistic imagery that has influenced artists and designers, and which still fascinates them to this day.
In 1919, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud defined ‘the uncanny' in his essay of the same name as a fear that exists when the familiar suddenly becomes strange and unfamiliar. His analytical model of the human mind with a conscious and subconscious layer forms the basis of surrealism. Although it is primarily known as a movement in visual art, surrealism also infiltrates the world of graphic design.
The exhibition illustrates the profound impact that surrealist ideas and images have had on visual communication since 1930. A multifaceted overview, from posters, record sleeves and vintage book covers to contemporary graphic novels, exposes an alternative tradition in graphic design. The powerful and fascinating imagery is unpredictable and does not conform to a specific grid. What is fundamental to the surrealistic approach to life is a constant search for the ‘marvellous', and an awareness of the unusual aspects of reality. Using themes such as the curiosity cabinet and strange objects of desire, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey along works by artists such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Edward Fella and Karel Teissig. Finally, the ‘dream cinema' theme presents a series of unusual short films made by designers.
leading image: Karel Teissig, The Last Butterfly, 1990