SVA’s subway poster show features icons of design

Over 200 posters by the likes of Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, and Gail Anderson appear in the exhibition, which is celebrating nearly 75 years of the art school’s posters appearing in New York subway stations

Art Is!, 2018. Designer: Pablo Delcan; Illustrator: Justin Metz; Creative Director: Anthony P Rhodes

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York has announced the opening of Underground Images: A History, which revisits the college’s famous Subway Posters collection. These posters have adorned the walls of the NYC subway system for nearly 75 years, and now, for the first time ever, they are being shown as a complete collection.

Featuring more than 200 posters by 93 different artists, the collection began in 1947 when SVA was founded. Initially called the Cartoonists & Illustrators School, esteemed members of its faculty were commissioned to design these posters as a form of “creative marketing”.

Every Wall is a Door, 1961. Designer/Photographer: George Tscherny; Art Director: Silas H Rhodes
It’s Never Too Late to Get Where You’re Going, 2011. Designer: Louise Fili; Creative Director: Anthony P Rhodes

Included in the list of artists that have produced original work for the series are seminal figures such as Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, Marshall Arisman and Gail Anderson. Each brought their own distinctive style to bear on the commission, creating thought-provoking artworks to amuse and stimulate passers-by. The collection even features its latest addition – a poster by photographer Angel R Ibañez which celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop’s inception.

Since 2006, various posters from the collection have toured around the world, becoming part of exhibitions in countries as wide-ranging as India, Jamaica, Ireland, Turkey, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Italy, and Serbia. But this time around, the posters return to their birthplace of New York for the largest exhibition thus far.

I Love NY More Than Ever, 2001. Designer: Milton Glaser; Creative Director: Silas H Rhodes
Spend a Few Nights With Us. It May Change…, 1973. Illustrator: Audrey Flack; Designer: Richard Wilde, Copywriter: Dick Wasserman; Art Director: Silas H Rhodes

Hosted at the SVA Chelsea Gallery, Underground Images: A History is divided into four sections, with each covering a different aspect of the posters, from their history to their creation, and from their evolution to their cultural impact. Visitors will be able to view the full gamut of mediums found across the collection, including typography, illustration, graphic design, and fine art.

Alongside the posters themselves will be a showing of the Subway Series videos, historical photographs, original artworks, progress sketches, oral histories, and a recreation of a subway platform to make the experience fully immersive.

“Since the earliest days of the college, the subway posters have done more than just generate interest in SVA,” said SVA president David Rhodes. “They’ve stirred the imaginations of New Yorkers and the countless aspiring and practicing artists who visit the city each year.”

Even a Great Idea Is Only an Idea Until…, 1989. Illustrator/Designer: Tony Palladino; Photographer: Luke Lois; Copywriter: Dee Ito; Creative Director: Silas H Rhodes
To Be Good Is Not Enough, When You Dream…, 1986. Illustrator: Jerry Moriarty; Designer: William Kobasz; Copywriter: Dee Ito; Creative Director: Silas H Rhodes
Art Defies Gravity, 2017. Designer: Stephen Doyle; Creative Director: Anthony P Rhodes
To Be Good Is Not Enough When You Dream…, 1987. Designer: Paula Scher; Art Director: Silas H Rhodes
I Am a Work in Progress (B), 2014. Photographer: Clay Patrick McBride; Creative Director: Anthony P Rhodes

Underground Images: A History is on show at SVA Chelsea Gallery until October 14;