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New Work: ‘Archives of American Art Journal’

Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the Archives of American Art is dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in the United States. Among the 20 million items in its collections are the papers of artists and designers including Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, Grant Wood, Jacob Lawrence, Ben Shahn, Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, and many others, as well as of galleries and institutions such as the Leo Castelli Gallery, the SoHo Artists Association, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the American Academy in Rome.

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Laitsz Ho have completed a redesign of the Archives of American Art Journal, the biannual publication of the Archives. The first issue of the redesign celebrates the 100th anniversary of the International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show, the first major exhibition of European modern art in the United States. The Armory Show opened in New York’s 69th Regiment Armory in 1913 before traveling to Chicago and Boston, and played a pivotal role in the development of modernism in the US. The Archives of American Art holds most known records of the Armory Show, including those of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, the group that organized the exhibition, and of Walt Kuhn, one of its founders. The new issue of the Journal reconstructs the history of the show through many of these documents.

The Armory Show’s contemporary namesake was established in 1999 and has grown into one of the world’s biggest art fairs. The centennial edition of the Armory Show opens today and runs through Sunday, March 10 at Piers 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s West Side.

The Journal redesign builds on the existing format with a modern type treatment and clean, spare page layouts. The redesign uses two contemporary fonts, Calibre and Tiempos, both designed by Kris Sowersby, that are intended to provide a neutral contrast to the historical character of the documents. Titles and headlines are paired with bold graphic rules that run between lines of type. The end pages of the “Armory Show at 100″ issue feature a pattern based on a tree motif originally sketched by Walt Kuhn in 1912 from a flag used during the American Revolution. Kuhn used the graphic on the catalogue, invites and other materials for the first Armory Show, where they appeared with the line “The New Spirit.”

The Archives recently completed the digitization of its documents from the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, and the Journal reproduces several of these documents in an illustrated chronology of the show’s development. (More documents can be viewed in an interactive timeline posted on the AAA website.) Other articles revisit the scandal of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), which was displayed at the first Armory Show, and a special 50th anniversary exhibition of the Armory Show that was staged at the 69th Regiment Armory in 1963.

The “Armory Show at 100″ issue coincides with centennial exhibitions featuring documents from the Archives of American Art at the New-York Historical Society and the Montclair Art Museum.

Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge and designer; Laitsz Ho, designer.