By Albert Nall, Staff Writer
The opening reception for the “Visie Van Amsterdam” graphic design poster exhibit took place at Gallery Visio between 12-5 p.m. on August 26 in the Millennium Student Center at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis. A reception with a buffet table, along with the alternative/indie rock that played in the background, greeted attendees, who also were met by veteran curator Stuart Shadwell.
“’Visie Van Amsterdam’ was done previously (in 2011) and an artist who exhibited in the previous event is part of this exhibit,” said Shadwell. Visie Van Amsterdam was a high point for students in Studio Art 3312, Special Topics: Dutch Poster Design, taught by Jennifer McKnight, a Graphic Design professor at UMSL. The students in Professor McKnight’s class spent the periodof June 10-23 on a trip to Amsterdam, where they got an orientation in silk screening. The trip was sponsored by the International Studies & Programs at UMSL.
The spirit of the exhibit is in both the cultural identity of the Netherlands and the struggle over the country’s official languages. Dutch is the official language in the Netherlands. However, its citizens often speak at least one foreign language, typically English. One significant example of Amsterdam’s bilingual influence is a source of artistic inspiration for UMSL student Hannah Miller, senior, graphic design. Miller’s work “Independent” is an English translation of “I am feeling independent today,” from the original Dutch featured in the work: “Ik ben onafhankelijk Vandaag gevoel.”
The signature poster of the event was done with style and distinction by Lilly Huxhold, an alumnus of the Graphic Design program at UMSL. Huxhold’s piece is personified by the large pink monogram initials ‘VAV’ (for Visie Van Amsterdam) arranged strategically in the center of the poster. Whether it was the implication of ‘bad design shouts’ and ‘good design whispers’ on Huxhold’s poster, or a significant focal point on “Information is Expensive”, a work by Professor McKnight, the medium of expression was the message. The works at the exhibit centered on vexillology as a central theme. Vexillogy is the study of the symbolism and use of flags through history.
Nowhere was this more evident in the exhibit than in the piece “XXX” by Julie Leise, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from UMSL. Leise’s piece embodies succinct details such as a square with majestic, iconic buildings on one corner and bicycles in another corner. The bikes are an important distinction in Leise’s piece, as Amsterdam is cited as the center of bicycle culture and lore. Statistics from the Amsterdam’s census mentions that its citizens own about 1,200,000 bikes, outnumbering the citizens. In addition, Amsterdam has a rich architectural history, with its oldest inner court of interconnected buildings being the Begijnhof, which dates back to the Middle Ages. This was fittingly represented in Leise’s design. Another noticeable feature at the exhibit is “Amsterdam Bike” by Miller, with its emblematic blue bike spokes on the design.
The artists in the “VAV” exhibit provided an impassioned interpretation of a rather implicit meaning of the city’s coat of arms. Historians say that the coat of arms of Amsterdam on its flag is unclear as to its meaning. Some say that the three heraldic symbols represent the three dangers of ancient Amsterdam: fire, flood, and the Black Death that plagued Europe in the Middle Ages. Using one’s imagination, one could suggest that the X’s on some of these artists’ works could infer anything from national unity to a cultural revolution. The highlight of the exhibit is the works “Mixed Tape I” and “Mixed Tape II”. According to Shadwell, the work was a collaborative endeavor by all of the students enrolled in in Studio Art 3312. Both works are a subliminal and blurred montage of symbols, along with the Amsterdam coat of arms and flag.
An upcoming exhibit, “American Gypsy”, will run from September 16 through October 8. The current “Visie Van Amsterdam” exhibit will run through September 10. For more information about Gallery Visio, contact 314-516-7922 or go to umsl.edu/~galvisio.