Radical Modernism’s Father Figure

Dan Friedman (1945 –1995), the father of “Radical Modernism,” wrote: “We should return to a belief in a radical spirit—the idea that design is something that can help improve society and people’s condition.” It is also the underscore of “Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist,” a new exhibition at the Chicago Design Museum from April 28–Aug. 12. Curated by Friedman himself prior to his death in 1995, the exhibit reflects his kaleidoscopic career, such as his influential New Wave typography, pieces of eccentric furniture, experimental sculptural installations, found art exploring American and street culture that rejects corporate style yet reaffirms the 20th-century tenets of Modernism.

 

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Friedman pioneered the American Radical Modernist movement in the ‘80s and ‘90s, working alongside contemporaries like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons. His work broke established boundaries between design disciplines. He pioneered the New Wave typography in America and differentiated his design from the formal structures of Modernism. Prior to its current incarnation, Friedman created the iconic Citibank logo, used by the bank from 1976 to 2001. He later joined the Pentagram design firm. His Radical Modernist agenda (which included the design of his own home, pictured below) is 20 years old, but feels as fresh as the day he coined the term.

 

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The Chicago Design Museum is located at 108 N. State St., 3rd Floor, Chicago. “Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist” continues to be exhibited by Friedman’s brother Ken Friedman, with the curatorial assistance of Chris and Esther Pullman, Mara Holt Skov and Steven Skov Holt.


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