Michael Worthington and Alums Talk CalArts Poster Show at REDCAT with EoB

Inside Out & Upside Down: Posters from CalArts 1970-2019 | Photo: Brica Wilcox. Courtesy of REDCAT.

East of Borneo (EoB), the online magazine of West Coast contemporary art and its history, published by the CalArts School of Art, currently features an interview with Graphic Design faculty Michael Worthington and CalArts alumni about the CalArts Poster Archive exhibition Inside Out & Upside Down: Posters from CalArts 1970-2019, which ran from Aug. 25-Nov. 29, 2020, at REDCAT.

REDCAT Exhibitions Manager Carmen Amengual moderated and edited a transcript of a Zoom conversation held on Sept. 9, 2020, between herself, Worthington, Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton (Art MFA 07), and Silas Munro (Art MFA 08), all of whom organized Inside Out & Upside Down. The conversation, titled Unseen in the Archives: Inclusion and Omission in ‘Inside Out and Upside Down: Posters from CalArts 1970-2019, was the first in a series that “critically addressed the exhibition in relation to issues of inclusion and representation in the field of graphic design and graphic design education.”

The exhibition, which was accompanied by a virtual tour, featured more than 300 student- and faculty-designed posters from the CalArts Poster Archive, many of which were long unavailable to the public. Inside Out & Upside Down offered a critical look at the Institute’s role in the history of contemporary graphic design as it reckoned with issues of representation and race in the field. Worthington, Arceneaux-Sutton, and Munro further engaged the archive through Inside Out & Upside Down: Posters from CalArts 1980–2019, an accompanying poster book.

Worthington discussed how exhibition planning transformed once the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered physical studio spaces. In working with organizers from the Institute’s online art space thurs.night, Worthington reconnected with Arceneaux-Sutton and Munro:

During that time in that online space I reconnected with Tasheka, who was in an online drawing workshop, and Silas as well. And at the same time, I was talking with REDCAT about what we should do with the show since it was postponed. We wanted to figure out how that might work. And in talking with you, Carmen, and Joao Ribas and Edgar Miramontes, what became clear was that there was a radically different context from when the show was conceived to when the show would actually be visible to the public. We felt that it couldn’t be ignored in a way and that it just re-contextualized what we were doing and made us reconsider it …. And so, I asked Silas and Tasheka to work on a critical response to the exhibition.

When asked by Worthington to create a response to the exhibition, Arceneaux-Sutton thought back to her projects at CalArts. Much of her work had to do with Black culture and identity, and her research focused on discovering influential Black graphic designers. She noted that it “just made sense” for her to address her “actual experience of being a Black student in a program there.” In his response, Munro pondered “Where is the Black in graphic design at CalArts?” Munro stated that his and Arceneaux-Sutton’s conversations with graphic design alums around this and related themes were greatly valuable, as it is “the conversations that can lead to real change.”

Read the full interview transcript at East of Borneo.

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