When renowned artist Yuko Shimizu first envisioned her three subway posters for the School of Visual Arts back in the summer of 2016, little did she realize how prescient they would be, considering recent events. The fact that their appearance in the New York Subway system coincided with the Women’s March on Washington (and cities across the world) was pure serendipity.
According to Yuko, “We (Gail Anderson, Director of Design, Visual Arts Press and Shimuzu) started working on this back in early summer. Political climate was a lot different back then. It was a long process, and the posters came out in December. We did of course think about women power from the starting point. The meaning got a lot stronger now, more than ever. It is very timely, in the way we have not predicted.”
These three join SVA’s rich history of subway posters, dating back to the 1950s. There is a current exhibit of 50 posters from the collection exhibiting worldwide, “Underground Images” featuring 30 artists, including Gail Anderson, Marshall Arisman, Ivan Chermayeff, Paul Davis, Louise Fili, Bob Gill, Robert Giusti, Milton Glaser, Phil Hays, Steven Heller, Mirko Ilić, Viktor Koen, Stephen Kroninger, James McMullan, Jerry Moriarty, Tony Palladino, Stefan Sagmeister, David Sandlin, Paula Scher, George Tscherny, James Victore, et al.
For Yuko, her approach was personal. “I have been teaching in SVA since 2003. I enrolled in SVA in 1999, so it has been 18 years I have known this school. And the demographic of art students have changed a lot. When I stared, it was 50% male, 50% female. Now, if I have three male students in a class, that is ‘a lot’. At least in the program I teach (BFA Illustration) it is predominantly female. But of course, if you go to an art museum, or read your favorite mainstream comics, or you go to a design conference and look at the lineup of speakers, they are still predominantly male. Since I am a female artist myself, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be a cheerleader for female creatives. I ran it by VAP, ‘Is it OK that all of them are (different types of) female?’ and the answer was ‘Why not?’ So I went with it.”
The impact has been immediately felt throughout the city, as noted in the recent New York Time article, “New York Today: Who’s a New Yorker, According to New Yorkers” by Jonathan Wolfe. They are on view in nearly 170 subway stations throughout the city. You can’t get anymore New York than that.