Celebrating Radical Modernism in NL Design

Going through 1980s postmodernism, I learned to acknowledge the violent aspect of modernism, in particular the destructive character of its urban planning. But what I never ‘reconstructed’ is my admiration for the historical avantgarde art of the interbellum decades. And many with me, nearly a century later, just look at Lev Manovich’s Language of New Media. It is the continuity what stuck during the opening of the Jan Tschichold exhibition on Saturday afternoon February 28, 2009 in the Breda Dutch Graphic Design Museum. The exhibition is entitled Who Sets the Standard? I mentioned the event here earlier because I wrote a short text for the zero.one edition of the magazine that newly appointed director Mieke Gerritzen intends to launch in the near future.

The lecture hall was packed. It was moving to see how the radical modernist design tradition has moved on from the one generation to the next. In this country that has such a refined sensitivity of generational conflicts, it is rare to see how certain design concepts are being passed on. First of all there were the many orginal works on display by Jan Tschichold. Then there was the famous now 80 years-old Wim Crouwel who gave a short speech about Tschichold’s work, stressing the intense love-hate feelings he developed over the decades for Tschichold’s clear rules and strange return to classic style motives. Lies Ros, a designer who became famous in the early 1980s was the ideal person to design the exhibition itself. Then is Mieke Gerritzen herself whose work can so clearly be seen as a 1990s transformation of the avantgarde techniques. As a representative of the up and coming generation, Hendrik-Jan Grievink was asked to create a small addition to the Tschichold exhibit entitled Form Follows Format that deals with template culture. Hendrik-Jan stripped off the content from web portals, blogs and networking sites. I made a few pictures. Congratulations to all involved!