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Richard Hollis


Richard Hollis
traveling exhibition, first held at the Libby Sellars Gallery, London, March 23 – April 28, 2012 (later held at: Centre Pompidou, Paris [February 2013]; ECAL, Lausanne [April 2013]; and Artists Space, New York [September 2013])

Curator: Emily King
Statement: «As part of the team that turned John Berger’s epochal BBC TV series Ways of Seeing into a book, the graphic designer Richard Hollis invented a revolutionary system for combining word and image that was based on the television format. Still in print, the book remains the staple of art syllabuses worldwide and, over the years, Hollis’s layouts have awakened generation after generation to the notion that pictures are political. Alongside designing Ways of Seeing, Hollis worked for the Whitechapel Gallery from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s, the latter years under the directorship of the young Nicholas Serota. Working closely with the Gallery’s curators and artists, he produced a series of posters, flyers and catalogues that have lost none of their impact over the last four decades. Beyond institutions, he has also sustained long term collaborations with artists including Bridget Riley and Steve McQueen, through which he has developed brilliant strategies for the reproduction and dissemination of individual art works and entire oeuvres.
In spite of these significant bodies of work, Hollis’s preference for anonymity has led to him being little known beyond professional circles. He is the graphic designer’s graphic designer; a man who tends to be rediscovered every generation by students, many of whom know him as the author and designer of the Thames and Hudson book Graphic Design: a Concise History. Hollis claims his output has “no particular style”, yet his
attention to detail is discern[i]ble throughout. He not only integrates text and pictures with unparalleled intelligence, he also pays intense attention to the techniques of production, his goal in every instance being maximum graphic engagement at minimum cost.
Curated for the gallery by design historian and writer Emily King, the Richard Hollis exhibition will consist of approximately 100 items drawn from the designer’s own archive.
It will reflect his entire professional life, including his travels in the 1950s and 60s to Cuba, Zurich and Paris, his part in founding a new art school in Bristol in 1964, his role in the design of radical politics in the 1960s and 70s and his career-long investigation intothe graphic design of culture. Ranging in time and scope from personal collages made in the mid 50s to the graphic framework of Steve McQueen’s artwork ‘Queen and Country’, the exhibition will demonstrate Hollis’s singular ability to shape thought through the arrangement of word and image.»

Exhibition design: Simon Jones

Exhibition designer’s statement: «Commission to design & fabricate the exhibition display for a retrospective consisting of almost 300 pieces from the archive of graphic designer Richard Hollis.
Hollis’ work is often economical yet inventive in its use of colours, inks & paper stock and he believes that the designer’s role is to find expedient but delightful solutions to their clients’ briefs. The design of this show attempted to be similarly sparing by using low cost materials creatively to make an exhibition which showcases the extensive array of work at a glance & allows detailed study of the individual pieces.
By using two simple elements which are easily constructed / demounted & can be set up in different spaces without much adaptation, this design is also well suited for the different locations the exhibition is planned for.
The installation consists of sloping display tables & wall mounted poster rails. 12mm plywood lengths are continuously hinged along the central spine & placed over similarly hinged plywood supports, with the fold lending them spanning length & stability. The bottom edges of the tables are further strengthened by plywood lippings which also act as a stop to hold the displays in place. This structural solution means that the exhibits are angled towards the visitor, making them easier to view than if they were on a flat surface.
The content of the show is displayed & organised on a background of grey unlined cardboard – as sheets for 2D pieces (protected with the same size perspex if required) or shallow boxes with a perspex cover for 3D pieces. Based on the standard B size system, these sheets & boxes ranging from B1 landscape down to B4 portrait tesselate to cover the table tops. This method of display creates a framework for the curator to organise & group displays of work, allowing maximum flexibility for the arrangements to be shuffled & finessed during installation.
Posters are secured using back to back magnets – either to the front of grey card or to the rear of perspex if protection is required. These then simply slide onto wall mounted plywood rails.» (