Exhibition: Gastrotypographicalassemblage

Gastrotypographicalassemblage: The Designs of Lou Dorfsman opened today at London’s Kemistry Gallery…

Gastrotypographicalassemblage: The Designs of Lou Dorfsman opened today at London’s Kemistry Gallery…

Lou Dorfsman worked for CBS from 1946, when he was hired as art director for the CBS Radio Network, through to 1987, when he left the company (as senior vice president and creative director for marketing communications and design) to establish his own studio.

When a new CBS Building, designed by Eero Saarinen, was opened in 1965 on the corner of 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue in New York, Dorfsman was responsible for all the building’s graphics. It is the 11 metre long, 2.6 metre high typographical artwork he designed for the building’s cafeteria (which, in handmilled wood type, listed all the foods offered to patrons ) that gives its name to the title of the Kemistry gallery exhibition of Dorfsman’s work which runs until October 30.

For the show, the gallery has obtained over 60 original examples of print advertising for CBS, art directed by Dorfsman. But the showstopper is definitely the specially-created half-scale, photographic reproduction of Gastrotypographicalassemblage – details of which are shown above and below.

“I recently rediscovered Lou’s work and realised what an amazing and influential designer he was,” explains Kemistry’s Graham McCallum of how the exhibition came about. “He was in at more or less the birth of television in the USA and throughout the sixties set a benchmark of excellence for future designers to aspire to,” he continues. “An all rounder he could turn his hand to any design problem, on or off screen. His advertising work for CBS in particular has that authentic ‘Mad Men’ feel about it and he was helped by having the perfect designer/client relationship with Dr. Frank Stanton, the president of the channel. Stanton was a man of vision and culture who gave Dorfsman his head. It is the results of their collaboration we want to celebrate in ‘Gastrotypographicalassemblage’ We feel this is a fitting tribute as Lou passed away in 2008 at age of 90.”

We also spoke to Kemistry Gallery’s curator, Alastair Coe and asked him about the show’s photographic recreation of Dorfsman’s Gastrotypographicalassemblage piece:

“I went to New York in July and met with Nick Fasciano (responsible for the iconic Chicago logo), a former colleague of Dorfsman’s who had salvaged the original Gastrotypographicalassemblage wall with a man called Rick Anwyl who runs the Center for Design Study in Atlanta. Nick has all the panels and letters in his house in NY. The week I visited he had just been to the Dorfsman family home, which had just been sold, so with the permission of Lou’s widow, Ann, we were allowed to have all the spreads and, a 10×8 black and white negative of the entire wall taken on the day it was unveiled. From this we worked with a company called VGL and printed it up at half scale (we couldn’t fit full scale in the gallery) and had it stretched by AP Fitzpatrick. For a 45 year old negative the quality we have got from the blowup without any retouching is fantastic.”

The gallery is also running a DVD about the wall, narrated by Dorfsman, which plays through a period (1960) television and headphones. “It is a nice addition,” says Coe, “and adds some context and allows visitors to hear the story of the wall from Lou himself.”

The gallery has also created various things for sale at the show:
– An A2 blind embossed poster on Plike 240gsm which has been artworked by Robert Petrie and printed expertly by Generation Press (see image above)
– A concertina leaflet with belly band
– A repro of part of the wall
– An out of print book called Dorfsman & CBS.

Gastrotypographicalassemblage: The Designs of Lou Dorfsman runs until October 30 at Kemistry Gallery, 43 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3PD. Visit kemistrygallery.co.uk for more info

Exhibition photography by Christian Carlsson

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