Wednesday, March 19, 2008

MOMA to run year-long retrospective of George Lois Esquire covers

As well it might, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is celebrating the Esquire covers of George Lois in an exhibit that runs for a year, from April 25 through to March 31, 2009, in the Museum’s Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries. It features 32 of the 92 iconic covers Lois created in the 1960s in what many people in magazines still consider a "golden age".

A release from the MOMA notes that, before advertising executive and art director Lois was given a free hand by editor Harold Hayes, as part of his plan for revitalizing the flagging magazine, even the most celebrated magazine covers suffered from a banal, formulaic style, and often text competed with the image.
Lois stripped the cover down to a graphically concise yet conceptually potent image that venturedbeyond mere illustration of the feature article. He exploited the communicative power of the mass-circulated front page to stimulate and provoke the public into debate, pressing Americans to confront controversial issues like racism, feminism, and the Vietnam War. These images hit the public with their messages artfully communicated with force and immediacy.
Initially received as jarring and prescient statements of their time, the Esquire covers have since become essential to the iconography of American culture.
The very first cover that Lois produced for the October 1962 issue heralded an upcoming heavyweight title fight with a picture of the favourite, Floyd Patterson, sprawled on the canvas. knocked out by Sonny Liston and alone in the arena. It generated the largest newsstand sales in Esquire’s history.

Lois freely assembled montages, mixing photography, art and retouching, as when he spoofed pop art by having artist Andy Warhol sinking in a can of tomato soup, or had Muhammed Ali posed as the martyr St. Sebastian, pierced with arrows symbolic of the campaign against him for refusing to serve in Vietnam.
During the photo shoot, Ali named each of the arrows after his tormentors: General Westmoreland, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and President Johnson, among others. The image was so popular that it was later reproduced as a protest poster.
There are biographical details and a thumbnail gallery of the covers available on Lois's own website.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Heather Jean Li said...

D.B., what's going on with the dates on your postings? You seem to be one day ahead than the actual date.

9:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One has to wonder if the management of Eye Weekly was aware that the recent Eye cover based on the Lois's "Warhol drowning" was an "inspired" concept.

10:15 am  

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