In 1969, the Mead Library of Ideas presented an exhibition of the work of Push Pin Studios, sharing the design and illustration of its many current and former members. Despite the fact that the studio was built on the foundation of eclecticism, the show revealed a truly remarkable consistency to the work. Jerome Snyder explained in the exhibition catalogue for Push Pin Studios: Fifteen Years of Heartache and Aggravation how the studio departed from pastiche to develop a new visual language:
What then is the Push Pin dynamic… its resurgent “élan vital”, that keeps their output so ingeniously pertinent? The American society is one of contending forces, conflicting ideologies, myths, moribund and ephemeral. Today’s social turbulence is one of the resonances of that shifting culture. If graphic design, if graphic idioms and language are to be germane to our times, they must resonate in mood and style with quickened temporal pulse. Chwast, Glaser and others who have been members of the Push Pin dramatis personae are above all intimately responsive to those contemporary rhythms. Their perceptive ability to seek and generate from the mine of all iconography some viable kernel as a basis for sparkling new graphic idiom is part of a special virtuosity. To transmute an image from the distant source and invest it with the timeliness of the relevant present is at the root of their uniqueness. Within the formidable body of work assembled for this exhibit, one will find a coruscating array of style, technique, ingenuity, wit and emotion. What emerges… is the imprimatur of the Push Pin Studios: a graphic language, intellectually diverse, articulate and above all authentic… If now we see throughout the country and abroad influences, adapted images, and flagrant imitation, we need only remember that we now stand at the wellspring.
Even more on our Flickr page, from Ed Sorel, Herb Levitt, Tim Lewis, Reynold Ruffins, Jerry Smokler, Glaser and Chwast.
This post also appears on our Picturebox blog.