Gallery5 to showcase the art of typography

Attendees will soon be able to compare Chinese and American typography up close.

Nearly 150 posters created by American and Chinese designers will soon be on display as part of the US & China Typographic Poster Exchange 2013 exhibit at Gallery5 from June 7th – June 28th.1

“Typography is anything dealing with the designing and organizing of letterforms,” including font, color, letter size, line spacing, said Bizhan Khodabandeh, co-curator of the exhibit and Design Director of Gallery5. “We use it for so many purposes. It follows us our entire lives–from our birth certificate, to our pay stub, to our obituary.”

Chinese artist Li Xu–who curated a laser cutting exhibit that featured Khodabandeh’s work–envision the typography exhibit. “He had the vision for the US/China type exhibit and approached me to help him work on it in the States,” Khodabandeh said. The two curated roughly 140 typographic posters (two-thirds from Chinese artists), which began a tour of Chinese universities, exhibition centers, and galleries last month. Most of the posters will soon be displayed in Richmond.

“I’m excited because the exhibit puts typography in a different context,” Khodabandeh said. “The efforts of designers are often neglected since typographic design is often considered utilitarian work.”

Some of Khodabandeh’s colleagues don’t think typography is fitting for an art exhibition. “Many of them feel that design isn’t art…so why put it in an art gallery?” While he can tell a difference between fine art and graphic design, “I’m not so sure that there aren’t enough commonalities between the two that they can’t both be exhibited in a gallery setting.”

But classifying the nuances of design and art isn’t the purpose of the exhibit. “I am more interested in the audience’s experience and appreciation for typographic design.”

Among the differences between Chinese typographic designers and their American cohorts is the origin point. “Since many East-Asian languages are read from right to left, their entry point is on the top right instead of the top left,” Khodabandeh said. “This affects the way composition is approached.”

He also said that Chinese typographers tend to be more influenced by hand lettering with brushes. Western typographers “tend to see more handwritten type influenced by European flat tipped pens and brushes.”

Not only does Khodabandeh want typical art goers to enjoy the exhibit and gain an appreciation for typography, he hopes it serves as an educational opportunity for students and professionals.

“Sure, they can look up stuff online, but there is something very different about seeing the poster in person as opposed to seeing it on a screen,” he said. “I also find that some design work just looks better in a larger scale, so seeing it a few square inches on a computer screen doesn’t teach you much.”

The US & China Typographic Poster Exchange 2013 will be at Gallery5 and VCUarts MoB from June 7th – 28th. The exhibit will be at Virginia State University in September.


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  1. Other pieces will be on display at VCUarts MoB at 205 E. Broad Street. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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