Graphic design icon Ed Fella’s work will be exhibited at the University Art Gallery Sept. 24 to Oct. 23.
Ed Fella is an early experimenter of deconstructed typography, or the art of type and font technique.
“I would describe (the work) as art-design. It’s not art and it’s not exactly conventional, general graphic design,” Fella said. “It’s kind of an in-between, so it’s kind of like art-design.”
The exhibit will feature Fella’s posters, fliers, photographs and sketchbooks, said Jeff Van Kleeck, the gallery coordinator for the UAG.
“He combines office copier disintegration, colored pencils, rubdown letters, stencils and hand-inked letters to create challenging and lively work,” Van Kleeck said.
Fella’s innovative art is now recognized to be a timeless influence on anything from clothes to commercial arts.
“His work continues to be an influence to designers from the 1980s to today,” Van Kleeck said. “You can see his influence on everything from Nike to Volcom to independent bands and the alternative culture aesthetic.”
Fella, who now is a professor of graphic design at California Institute of the Arts, was once a commercial artist who designed for companies such as Buick in Detroit.
“All of the stuff (for the exhibit) isn’t commercial work. You won’t see any Buick posters or anything like that. These are all things I did for myself,” Fella said.
Fella actually found his inspiration from his first 30 years of being a commercial artist.
“The work that I’ve done since then and for the exhibition is a kind of deconstruction of that 30 years of commercial art,” Fella said. “For the past 20 years or so, I’ve found the inspiration in my first 30 years.”
Fella decided to go back to school after his stint as a commercial artist when he was faced with “empty nest syndrome,” or in other words, how he felt when his two daughters left for college. He also wanted to get a master’s degree so he could teach and have more free time for his own art.
So, at 47 years old, Fella entered graduate school and received an M.F.A. in Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, which opened the door for his success and recognition as a postmodern graphic designer. He eventually relocated to Valencia, California to teach at California Institute of the Arts.
Louise Sandhaus is a coworker of Fella with the graphic design faculty at California Institute of the Arts and an admirer of Fella’s work.
“Ed is an incredible library as well as has an incredible library (of books, images, work of other designers, his own work and inspirations), so (he is a) remarkable resource of knowledge, ideas and inspiration,” Sandhaus said. “We’re all very, very lucky to have him around — which he is most of time since his studio is among the grad workspaces.”
Besides working in a studio, Fella carries sketchbooks with him and designs whenever he has spare time. His designs are spontaneous; he doesn’t have a preconceived notion of what he wants to convey or draw. They just flow from writing utensil to paper.
Fella’s work is featured and displayed in various graphic design history books, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Design Museum in New York. He also has some of his work published in a book titled “Letters on America”, which features arranged polaroids of various letters he captured while traveling the United States and his own designs.
Van Kleeck said that having the opportunity to display work by someone as established as Fella is fortunate and exciting.
“For the gallery, anytime we can get someone who is in the history books of art and design, we consider ourselves lucky,” Van Kleeck said.
Fella’s exhibit will be preceded by a reception with a lecture by Fella on Sept. 24 at 5 p.m.
“What I’ll discuss is what the work is, what it’s about, you know, give a brief accounting of the context of (the work),” Fella said.
The UAG, located in the Dexter building (Bldg. 34), Room 171, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no entrance fee.