• Review

  • October 24th, 2014 10.24.2014

    Rejected Content: Between Graphic Design and Art


    Graphic design—formally known at the beginning of the twentieth century as Commercial art—has been commonly defined as relating to the masses, a visual rhetoric that society can easily grasp and that, if successful, is efficient and clear in its communication. Fine art, on the other hand, tends to be individual-centric, an expression on behalf of the artist. Design penetrates all areas of our lives, and, even an exhibition at an experimental space on the outskirts of downtown Leeds for the occasion of the show, Rejected Content. Taking the principles of graphic design, the five artists featured in the exhibition construct images that engage with their audience without claiming to promote anything except for a visual consumption of the interests they have when off the preverbal clock. Focusing on composition, and creating aesthetically attractive images with consideration to expression and process, the end result is a mixture of thought provoking content through a variety of means.

    Two major currents runs through the veins of the exhibition’s success—on the one hand, there are the artists themselves—Rob Jameson, James Longhorn, Rob Cubbon, Adam Menzies, and Liam Johnstone—who created aesthetically strong work that revolved around a solid understanding and talent for graphic design (and through its modes of display), turned fine art. The other is the choice to exhibit their work in a refurbished space that compliments and re-enforces the fresh, DIY vitality the Leeds art scene has to offer.

    One example of work included in the exhibition was Rob Jameson’s grouping of six prints titled Mechanimals. Centered on notions of an inherent interest in nature, Jameson depicts each animal with simple contours and spacing; though a closer look allows insight into the intricate detail, as each form is made-up of mechanical parts taken from a 1950’s automobile book. The word FUTURE, written in large font, looms in the background, prompting us to think beyond the obvious idea of technological advancement, and to consider the imaginative process of creation, where each component of the creature’s existence is based on the complexities of inspiration, arrangement, reconsideration, and a final “constructed” whole.

    The artists explain that the title of the exhibition, Rejected Content was a collection of projects that did not, at times, work within the framework of what was originally commissioned by clients. But it also reconsiders forgotten and unseen works; a type of self-appropriation. Using these “rejected” images as a platform for experimentation; the artwork evolves into graphic collages, playful inside jokes with surrealist undertones, references to popular culture and science fiction, and even a humble realization of the need to further evolve as an artist. The show, which only lasted one weekend, creatively suggests the potentials for graphic designers and their work to belong within a contemporary art discourse in their own right.