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 ICA’s 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 10-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. The Happy Show opens on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, with a reception from 6–8 p.m., and will remain on view through August 12, 2012.
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.
Check out visitors’ symbols of happiness and more on The Happy Show Tumblr!
The Happy Show was 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 was coordinated at ICA by Associate Curator Anthony Elms.
The Happy Show traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in winter 2013.
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.
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