Graphic Modernism exhibition review

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Avant-garde design between the world wars has been endlessly studied, but despite the many monographs, books, catalogues and exhibitions, “Graphic Modernism from the Baltic to the Balkans 1910–1935,” an exhibition at the New York Public Library with an accompanying catalogue, proves there is still much to be discovered.

Focusing on avant-garde design in countries normally overlooked in histories of modernism—Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany—inevitably, a few familiar names crop up: El Lissitsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Karel Teige, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Lajos Kassak. But the show provides fascinating items by many artists previously known only to specialists: the expressionistic cover of Zdroj by August Zamoyski (1918), the back cover of Grafika by Tadeusz Gronowski (1930), which wonderfully melds Constructivist elements and Art Deco letterforms, the surrealist image of a ham joined to a woman’s pair of legs by Jindrich Styrsky (1936), and the Christo-like illustration by Ferdo Delak for Tank (1928). The Gronowski design is only one of several that show the overlapping territory occupied by the avant-garde and Art Deco in these years.