Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wilhelm Kåge (1989-1960)


Earlier this month, DN (Dagens Nyheter, one of two Swedish national broadsheet newspapers), featured the artist best known for his Gustavsberg ceramics, mentioning his graphics. Now John Coulthart { feuilleton } helps bring his poster work to a wider audience, directing readers to the collection at Kunliga biblioteket (the Royal Library) of his graphic design.

Until seeing all this, I hadn't realized how instrumental Kåge was in creating what has become a near-ubiquitous Swedish style, more perhaps than even Swedes realize: simple, "honest," three-color clarity. It has strong and, in Kåge's case, deliberate associations with the welfare state's common man. Even in this post-modern period, it continues to have an influence on the straight-foreward directness of Svensk advertising and product design.

All of the posters in this collection seem somehow familiar. Many were on display in kiosks and on bulletin boards when I was here as a child (1957). Most just have a kind of synonymous aura of familiarity. They are, for me, the archetype of ephemeral public statements on paper.

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