The Daily Heller: Scher Shakes Madrid

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Just imagine. You’ve been shut up in your spacious studio for most of a year. Still, you’ve been fortuitously commissioned by a private car/art collector to paint one of your expressionistic, interpretive maps of the U.S. over the entire outer shell of one of his vintage Porsches (which takes about a year of back-straining daily labor). Nonetheless, for your day job you are also Zooming throughout the day with clients, associates and partners (who are dispersed in lockdown). That, my friends, was Paula Scher’s fate during the the 2020–2021 COVID season.

It was a weird year … but there was a light at the end of the tunnel—dim at first, but brighter as the days turned into months. Scher had something extra special to look forward to. If the stars and vaccines were in sync, she would fly to Spain in October 2021. This is because she is the subject of a major exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, presented in conjunction with Madrid Gráfica 2021, the city’s annual exposition of international graphic design. The retrospective showcases a selection of projects from throughout Scher’s career, as chosen by Manuel Estrada, the director of Madrid Gráfica.

The exhibit is extraordinary, excitingly hung to emphasize the range of media, style, concept and talent she’s exhibited as one of the most influential, provocative and eye-tonic international graphic designers of today.

“Thanks to her distinctive pop style and bold use of typography, the images of this iconic artist and graphic designer have become part of the American vernacular,” the museum writes.

Included are systems and one-offs for Windows, Citibank, The High Line, MoMA and The Metropolitan Opera. And don’t forget that COVID 2021 was the 25th year of her work for the New York Public Theater, for which an entire room is dedicated.

The exhibition design enlarges images of the projects to cover the walls of the galleries, a treatment inspired by Scher’s own supergraphic installations of typography. It is open for free until Jan. 16. If you don’t already have an excuse to travel to Madrid (or Europe in general), this invigorating show is worth the trip. If you are lucky enough to be close by, don’t miss it.