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School of Visual Arts Brings Together Iranian and New York Art

By DNAinfo Staff on August 30, 2010 1:27pm

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — What does the city’s "I Love New York" logo have to do with demonstrations 6,000 miles away in Tehran?

Starting Monday, the answer to that question is on display at the School of Visual Arts, where Milton Glaser, the artist who helped brand the Big Apple, has a poster he created on display as part of a new exhibit entitled “Where is My Vote? Posters for the Green Movement in Iran.”

The impetus for the exhibit began with a young Iranian photographer who placed an emailed call for help to graphic designers around the world, following the violence of Iran’s 2009 elections. Calling himself Green Bird, he asked for posters that conveyed the plight of supporters for reform candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who suffered a controversial loss to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“He said ‘folks, would you do something for the movement? And graphic designers from just everywhere jumped on this,” said Francis Di Tommaso, director of the Visual Arts Gallery and student galleries at SVA, describing Green Bird as “remarkably, recklessly brave.”

About 200 designers created posters. One, Italian artist Andrea Rauch, offered to host the images on SocialDesignZine, a hub for socially-conscious graphic artists that receives about a million hits a year, according to Di Tommaso — and is now blocked in Iran.

Another, Toronto-based illustrator Anita Kunz, contacted SVA after agreeing to help Green Bird find a North American gallery that would display the posters.

“I was really taken with his email because we take for granted our freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” said Kunz. “They’re courting imprisonment and possibly death — that’s something we absolutely don’t deal with here.”

The nearly 150 posters now on display at SVA reflect the core mission of graphic artists to communicate their messages “as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Di Tommaso.

A poster by American artist Seymour Chwast spells out “Iran” in a typeface that appears to melt into blood. Rauch’s design features features fingers positioned into a peace sign, but cut off at the tips. And Brooklyn-based illustrator Tim O’Brien puts the fallen face of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose death during the protests was captured on videotape, beside the words “I am an Iranian.”

Kunz, whose own poster features a woman with two faces, one kept docile by society and one expressing its rage to the world, wants visitors to walk away from the exhibit appreciating our rights as Americans, and empathizing with the struggles of Iranians.

“What we have is something very, very basic that Iranian people want,” she said. “I’ve always operated under the assumption that art could be powerful.”

“Where is My Vote? Posters for the Green Movement in Iran" runs through Sept. 25 at the Visual Arts Gallery on the 15th floor of 601 W. 26th Street.