Considered the greatest graphic designer of the past 50 years, Glaser, 79, created, and continues to create, art that permeate diverse aspects of popular culture—fabrics, jewelry, architecture, interior design, magazine covers, paintings, illustrations, watercolors, and even a martini glass. The awards he’s won and honors he’s received are too numerous to list. “It’s hard to explain the impact he’s had during the past 50 years,” said Onondaga Community College adjunct art professor Nicholas Todisco.
Some of the most accessible of Glaser’s creations are his posters, 25 of which are on display now through March 25 at The Gallery at the Ann Felton Multicultural Center at OCC. This is the first time a graphic artist has been showcased at OCC, and the exhibit has seen record crowds already.
Each of the posters is iconic in its own way, and each shows the range of Glaser’s talent: design, illustration, painting, watercolor, typography. The posters were chosen to represent the different academic aspects of OCC, Todisco said, including the arts, music, sociology, English literature, healthcare, law, labor and history. Glaser also designed a new poster for the exhibit, one which Todisco described as “brilliant,” and gave 200 of them to OCC, 50 of them signed.
“As pure graphic design, it’s a powerhouse,” Todisco said. “At first you don’t realize what he’s done.” The poster displays various color theory problems and is “a great teaching tool not only for design but also for illustration and color classes,” Todisco added.
In a phone interview, Glaser said that when designing posters for a retrospective, artists will often show an image of something they’ve already done and enlarge it. “I wanted to do a new work and wanted to do an exercise in form,” he noted. “I wanted to see how many games I could play with it.”
Glaser said he started with a yellow circle and then played with the “o” in his name and the “o” in the word “posters.” “Most of my work is not abstract,” he said. “With this poster, when you come up to it you say, ‘What the hell is that?’ Then it takes you a second to figure it out. You create a little game.” You have to see it in person to truly appreciate the image.
When discussing his most iconic image, Glaser said the “I (Heart) NY” logo came about as the second idea for a New York state tourism campaign and that he drew it on a scrap of paper in a cab. “It’s one of those things that almost didn’t come into being,” he said.
Glaser thought the campaign would last only a few months. He was wrong. “It became universal,” he said. “Within a year or two, it was all over the world.” Glaser admitted that he was “totally surprised” by how the logo has permeated popular culture. He attributes its success to many factors, the first of which is the fact that it was for New York. “If it was ‘I (Heart) Chattanooga,’ you probably wouldn’t see it again,” he said.
The logo itself is a puzzle that requires intellectual activity, Glaser said. The “I” is a word, the heart conveys emotion and “NY” is a place. It’s visually voluptuous, he explained, and said the strength of the red heart next to the clunky black letters creates a visual contrast. “It’s just one of those things you do that captures people’s attention and enters their brain,” he shrugged. In fact, Glaser said not a day goes by where he doesn’t see the logo somewhere.
Another poster on display is one Glaser designed after Sept. 11, 2001, which reads “I (Heart) NY MORE THAN EVER,” with a black smudge on the lower left-hand side of the heart, indicating the geographic location of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Glaser said the work to which most people attach his name is the Bob Dylan poster, the one depicting a black silhouette of Dylan with psychedelic, multicolored shapes representing his hair, which is also on display at OCC. “I wish they knew me for something else,” Glaser said, still admitting that “It’s better to be known for something rather than nothing.”
Two gallery receptions will be held on Thursday, March 12, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., the only time the exhibit will be open during the evening. Todisco and others will be on hand for a question-answer session, commentary and discussion. The Gallery is open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 498-2622.