Over the past 125 years New York’s Pratt Institute has continually graduated and employed some of the world’s most influential free thinkers in art and design, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellsworth Kelly, George Lois, Paul Rand and Richard Meier to name just a few. While many have risen to fame, others remain behind the scenes designing products and making art we all subconsciously know and love. To celebrate the impressive range and influence Pratt artists and designers have achieved since the school’s founding, Pratt today opens an ongoing exhibition entitled “125 Icons.” Curated by the greater Pratt community through online polling, the show exhibits 125 of the most iconic pieces of art, architecture, advertising and design produced by alumni and faculty from 1887-2012.
Walking around the Manhattan Gallery at Pratt’s smaller 14th Street campus, one can immediately appreciate the school’s breadth of curriculum and the influence of its alumni. Laid out chronologically rather than by discipline, the exhibit encourages browsing the broad range of work, from Ron Travisano’s Meow Mix commercial and Tony Schwartz’s controversial 1964 DNC campaign advertisement playing on loop to reproduction prints of Michael Gross’ iconic Ghostbusters logo and George Lois’ famed Muhammad Ali Esquire cover.
“I had fun uncovering some things that I even grew up with but didn’t realize were designed by a Pratt person,” says Todd Michael Galitz, vice president of institutional advancement and the show’s official curator. “Things like the Oxo Good Grip, the Cuisinart or even the Trimline Telephone—to see them in this context brings them to a new light.” This idea of discovery is underscored throughout the show in largely unknown stories behind the development of many commonly known objects. Scrabble, for example, was originally designed by unemployed architect Alfred Mosher Butts during the Great Depression and only later brought to market by Macy’s in the 1950s. Another important fact we learned—the founder’s last name is worth seven points.
Other unexpected works on display include Frank Eliscu’s Heisman Memorial Trophy, Joseph Barbera’s invention of Tom & Jerry and Kermit Love’s Big Bird costume design. “125 Icons” opens today, 30 November, and will run through 19 January 2013. Visit Pratt Institute online for more information.
Installation images by Graham Hiemstra. Pollock Execute Chair image courtesy of Knoll, Inc. and Esquire Cover image courtesy of George Lois.