Chicago Design Museum Presents DAN FRIEDMAN: RADICAL MODERNIST – Radical Spirit

Chi Design Museum FRIEDMAN
Dan Friedman, Radical Modernism poster, copyright 2017, Chicago Design Museum
Portrait of Dan Friedman in front of The Wall Tseng Kwong Chi

“We should return to a belief in a radical spirit— the idea that design is something that can help improve society and people’s condition.” This quote from the artist encapsulates the ethos of Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist, a new exhibition showing at the Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM).

Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist explores the work of the designer, artist and posthumous 2015 recipient of the AIGA Medal from the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Curated by Friedman himself prior to his death in 1995, the exhibit reflects his kaleidoscopic career, including pieces of eccentric furniture, experimental sculptural installations, found art exploring American and street culture, and printed materials showing his influential New Wave typography. The show trumpets Friedman’s philosophy on work and life, advocating purpose in work, celebrating risk, rejecting corporate style and reaffirming the 20th century tenets of modernism.

Dan Friedman pioneered the American ‘Radical Modernist’ movement in the ‘80s and ‘90s, working alongside contemporaries like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jeff Koons,” said ChiDM Executive Creative Director Matthew Terdich. “In his search for a new and expressive visual language, Dan’s work increasingly broke established boundaries between design disciplines, weaving together a traditional approach to design with folk art, nature, and popular culture to truly embrace a cross-disciplinary approach.”

Over the course of his varied career, Dan Friedman pioneered the popularity of New Wave typography in America and coined the term “radical modernism” to differentiate his design philosophy from the formal structures of Modernism. He taught at Yale University’s graduate graphic design program and founded the visual arts program at the State University of New York at Purchase, serving as chairman of the graphic design department from 1972 to 1975. Friedman created the iconic Citibank logo, used by the bank from 1976 to 2001, while working at Anspach Grossman Portugal, and later joined the legendary design firm Pentagram. His work extended into the domestic sphere through his design of furniture, lighting and interiors displayed in art galleries and his apartment. At the end of his life he returned to teaching, serving as the Frank Stanton Professor of Graphic Design at Cooper Union from 1994 until his death from AIDS in 1995.

“Friedman is responsible for shifting the perception of graphic design from a solely commercial craft to a visual art form and an essential element of culture,” Terdich said. “His ‘radical modernist agenda’ is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.”

Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist continues to be exhibited by Friedman’s brother Ken Friedman, with the curatorial assistance of Chris and Esther Pullman, Mara Holt Skov and Steven Skov Holt.

Friedman considered his home a "visual laboratory”, constantly changing the interior design to explore new forms of expression. Tim Street-Porter


July 3 until August 12, 2017


Chicago Design Museum
Block Thirty Seven
108 N. State St, 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60602



Slider Photos

NEO, 1988, announcement for new fashion collection by WilliWear. by Joe Corsia Jr.

Fountain Table, 1988. A prototype commissioned by Formica Corporation as an experiment with their stone like material called Surrell. by Joe Corsia Jr.

Cover design for “Typografische Moatsblätter”, a Swiss printing and typography trade publication, 1971. by Dan Friedman

Photos Courtesy of the Chicago Design Museum

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