Serge Serov travels from Moscow for exhibition opening, workshop with UMSL design students
While listening to a lecture on the history of Russian design, the quiet crowd inside the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ Gallery 210 auditorium Thursday night suddenly seemed to voice a collective gasp.
The speaker, Serge Serov, had been taking them through a visual tour of the bold geometry and typography typical of the graphic design that flourished in his home country a century ago. But as his slideshow progressed to the 1930s and the next few decades, the contrast was immediate and stark.
“Russian avant-garde was buried in the asphalt of Stalin’s steamroller,” Serov told those gathered at the campus event, adding that it wasn’t until the 1980s that innovative, vibrant Russian design really began to make a comeback.
“It was a real curtain, a real veil,” he said of the impact of the Iron Curtain.
Over the last 25 years, Serov has played a significant role in helping to revitalize Russian design, and UMSL’s Jennifer McKnight was delighted to bring him and his expertise to the campus community.
The Department of Art and Design faculty member said she and her students and colleagues were “incredibly lucky” to spend a couple days with Serov.
Along with authoring 13 books on design, typography, logos and other topics, he is the founder and director of the Golden Bee International Poster Biennial, a vast show in Moscow that occurs every two years. The latest iteration, in 2016, drew roughly 17,000 submissions from 88 countries, with 1,000 of the posters ultimately selected for inclusion in the exhibition.
A sizable sampling of those works is now on display on campus in Gallery FAB. McKnight and an army of UMSL design students hung all 88 of them during the first week of the spring semester in anticipation of the formal opening and Serov’s visit.
Created by designers based in Switzerland, France, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the U.S. and many other places around the world, the posters will remain up through March 3.
“This is such a wonderful window into different cultures,” McKnight said.
As design student Cade Crites explored the Gallery FAB exhibition during the opening this week, she was focused on the wide variety of approaches to “what people prioritize” in their work.
“It’s so interesting to see the different takes on the same concept,” she said.
At the end of Serov’s talk, one of the first questions he fielded from the UMSL crowd had to do with his plans for the next Golden Bee, which will get underway later this year following the May 15 deadline for 2018 submissions. The students’ interest in the juried exhibition was obvious, and Serov noted that there is no entry fee.
He said that’s been a continued commitment on the part of the Golden Bee organization because, in his view, charging even a minimal fee would result in a very different kind of competition.
“It’s not business – we want to see good design,” he said.
Aaron Mann, BFA 2016, decided to return to his alma mater to attend Serov’s lecture when he heard that he was headed to UMSL all the way from Russia. Mann said he found the presentation on the history of the country’s contributions to visual art particularly fascinating.
Landon Ruan, a second-year UMSL design student originally from California, echoed Mann’s interest. Serov’s visit reminded him that every person brings a different perspective – and that it’s worth exploring those perspectives.
“As a design student, you have a duty to be open-minded,” Ruan said. “You should seek for every opportunity to be open-minded and see what is behind the design.”
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