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