From July 20 to October 14, 2001, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present Martin Venezky: Selections from the Permanent Collection of Architecture and Design. Organized by Darrin Alfred, curatorial associate for architecture and design, in conjunction with Aaron Betsky, curator of architecture, design and digital projects, the exhibition features approximately 15 projects by the well-known San Francisco designer and his company Appetite Engineers (www.appetiteengineers.com), including materials produced for the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, Speak magazine and Open: The Magazine of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“Venezky creates graphic designs whose complexity elaborates on the simple information on a page and spins it out into a tapestry of associations,” notes Betsky, who points out that the designer’s striking collages encompass everything from vernacular photography and found images of the American West to heavily treated type and computer-image manipulation. In nearly all his work, Venezky explores his particular fascination for the myriad processes of reproduction, both high and low tech. For issue number 20 of Speak, 2000, the designer photographed and scanned cherry stems; then, using computer-imaging software, he duplicated and reoriented the images to create kaleidoscopic effects. For another project, he made a series of hand-drawn versions of a logo and its typography. As Venezky states, “I like to be as close to the material as possible.”
Venezky’s experimentation with cherry stems speaks to a signature use of metaphor in his work. In the case of Speak’s cherry graphic, the design inspiration grew out one of the magazine’s short stories, a piece related to Las Vegas gambling (Venezky had in mind the cherries and other fruit symbols found on a slot machine). Once the designer hit on this image, however, he decided to exploit it in other parts of the magazine, putting it to work in fresh contexts. Working through a similar process in many of his projects, Venezky succeeds in creating a central metaphor that echoes throughout an entire design project; he manipulates and evolves the initial image or graphic element in a variety of ways, creating infinite new associations.
Martin Venezky is a graduate of the renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art design program in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and since 1993 has served as a professor of typography at the California College of Arts in San Francisco. He has served as art director of Speak from 1995 to 2001 and is the designer of SFMOMA’s award-winning members’ publication, Open: The Magazine of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was recently included in the American Center for Design’s 100 Show, the Communication Arts Design Annual and the Print Regional Design Annual. His work has been exhibited at New York’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s 2000 National Design Triennial, and in 1997 he was selected by I.D. magazine for its prestigious “ID40” list of influential designers.