The Happy Show
April 4 through August 12, 2012
Opening Reception + Walkthrough: Wednesday, April 4, 6-8pm
Walkthrough at 5pm with Stefan Sagmeister and curator Claudia Gould (ICA Members Only)
Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister not only tests the boundary between art and design, he often transgresses it through his imaginative implementation of typography. Filling the Institute of Contemporary Art's (ICA) entire second-floor galleries and Ramp, and activating the in-between spaces of the museum, The Happy Show offers visitors the experience of walking into the designer's mind as he attempts to increase his happiness via mediation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals. "I am usually rather bored with definitions," Sagmeister says. "Happiness, however, is just such a big subject that it might be worth a try to pin it down." Centered around the designer's ten-year exploration of happiness, this exhibition presents typographic investigations of a series of maxims, or rules to live by, originally culled from Sagmeister's diary, manifested in a variety of imaginative and interactive forms.
To contextualize the maxims that appear throughout the exhibition, Sagmeister has gathered the social data of Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Steven Pinker, psychologist Jonathan Haidt, anthropologist Donald Symons, and several prominent historians. A 12-minute segment of the Happy Film, a feature length exploration of whether it is possible to train the mind the way we train the body, will also be on view.
Stefan Sagmeister (b. 1962 Bregenz, Austria; lives New York) is a designer who blends typography and imagery in striking, fresh, ambitious, and unsettling ways. Having influenced the culture of design over the past decade, he is perhaps best known for his album covers for Talking Heads, Lou Reed, OK Go, and The Rolling Stones, to name only a few, as well as innovative campaigns, for companies like Levis, that have entered the public consciousness. This thematically focused exhibition, Sagmeister's first museum show in the United States, presents work in film, print, infographics, sculpture, and interactive installations. In addition to individual works, some of which have been custom-made for this exhibition, The Happy Show includes a personal narrative, as Sagmeister's individual experience is portrayed beside social data detailing the role of age, gender, race, money, and other factors that determine happiness.
The Happy Show is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania by former ICA Director Claudia Gould, currently Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director, The Jewish Museum, New York. The exhibition is coordinated at ICA by Associate Curator Anthony Elms and will be accompanied by a publication.
The Happy Show will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in winter 2013.
ICA is grateful for primary sponsorship from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. Additional funding has been provided by ICA's Leadership Circle. ICA is also grateful to The Chodorow Exhibition Initiative Fund for support of the exhibition's tour. We acknowledge support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; The Dietrich Foundation, Inc.; the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art; friends and members of ICA; and the University of Pennsylvania. General operating support provided, in part, by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. ICA receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. ICA acknowledges Le Meridien Philadelphia as our official Unlock Art™ partner hotel.