« Notes vagabondes, Métaphores et Mémoire dans les affiches de Nelu Wolfensohn »
L’École de design de Nantes Atlantique has had the pleasure on several occasions to welcome Nelu Wolfensohn – the graphic designer, renowned poster artist and professor at the UQAM School of Design in Montreal – both as a visiting professor and as a guest speaker.
The exhibition "Notes vagabondes, Métaphores et Mémoire dans les affiches de Nelu Wolfensohn" shows the emotive, tough and erudite graphic art of a designer who uses images and symbols with all the skill of a consummate professional and artist.
Whether the poster is from a commission or is conveying the artist’s committed stance on major social, political and cultural issues, the wealth of metaphor therein provokes and enriches our vision and thought. In one of his essays, Nelu Wolfensohn talks about a "metaphorical added value" that can condense several layers of interpretation into a single image. The art of the "conceptual metaphor" – the artist’s own term for stressing the importance of concept over style – is the real treasure found in his work. His often lauded artwork has won awards from international panels of experts and been acquired many times by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The structural text for the exhibition - "Notes Vagabondes" - creates a bond between the images and the written word, an intimate relationship fostered by the allocation of time and the computer screen, which is a far cry from a fleeting glance at a poster on a wall. The exhibition is a whole other space which can open up new perceptions. We view the object physically and also in intangible form. This reveals the research processes and experimentations that determine the final image selection and that remain open to new metamorphoses made possible thanks to digital technology.
Nelu Wolfensohn’s poster art happily lends itself to all of these encounters that make sense of it. It successfully reconciles different temporal states – the ephemeral and the eternal, different media – print and digital, different realms – commission, formal recognition in exhibitions, museums and international competitions, and new digital mediations.
The eponymous "Notes Vagabondes" are also the subject of a catalogue, wherein several essays cast additional light on a body of work that belongs to the heritage of great poster artists. In the catalogue, Adriana Dredge underlines Nelu Wolfensohn’s mastery of manipulating concepts and imagination, enabling the pictures to convey meaning and beauty, to make us think and also to perturb … Ronald Filion-Mallette Jr. examines the creative processes and method, starting from the central role of the conceptual metaphors and also ponders the "poster" categorisation in recent works relating to communication devices, tools and media in digital technology. Diane Charbonneau contextualises the place of the designer’s work in the Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s poster acquisitions from the last decades. Universal culture, humour, the illustrator’s talent and mastering the art of the image are all highlighted in her essay, which encourages us to share in the joy of this exhibition.
Jocelyne Le Boeuf
Director of Research & Design Labs Development
Exhibition curator and author of "Notes Vagabondes", the exhibition catalogue
featuring essays by:
Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Adriana Dredge, art critic and, until recently, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Arts London
Ronald Filion-Mallette Jr., Designer and Research Professor in Immersive Experiences and Multiple Realities at the UQAM School of Design