Standing in front of a poster that displays two bird wings that taper into a pair of clasped human hands in the Morgan Library’s First Bank Gallery, sophomore art major Dustin Stanisz reflects on the complex message conveyed by the poster’s simple art.
The illustration, which is one of many displayed Thursday night in the library by world-renowned humanitarian artist Shigeo Fukuda and his contemporaries, feeds the goal of the World Wildlife Foundation to foster awareness about endangered species.
“The WWF poster said a lot, but at the same time looked too simple to secretly say so much,” Stanisz said. “You never know what to expect from Fukuda, as his art will always keep you guessing.”
The optical illusions containing the subtlest of detail that pervade the late Fukuda’s art are only a small tool Fukuda utilized in producing his graphic posters.
“Mischief is the word I would use to describe Fukuda and his art,” said John Gravdahl, a former friend of Fukuda who spoke to the small crowd of CSU art community members. “He leads you one place with his art and then won’t let you know where he is going for the rest of it. You are constantly guessing.”
Gravdahl, Bob Coonts and Philip Risbeck, all art professors and friends of Fukuda, spoke in admiration and shared stories of the late artist at the 16th biennial Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition, which opened to the public Thursday evening.
“I have always marveled over the work he has done before 1979 and since then,” Coonts said.
In 1979 when the CIIPE was created, Fukuda was the first artist invited to the new exhibition. It was there he won his first major prize and became the honor laureate exhibitor in 1981.
“This is almost a bitter-sweet exhibition,” Coonts said. “After he became connected to the first CIIPE in 1979 he impacted my view (of art) after he won the best poster art in the exhibition.”
Fukuda was well known by his group of buddies as being an entertainer.
One of Gravdahl’s favorite pastimes with Fukuda was when they traveled together.
Gravdahl said Fukuda always wanted a photo to contain something entertaining, and in most cases, it was.
Often, Fukuda and Gravdahl said their goodbyes and took pictures with fellow artists at various exhibitions. When the photos were developed, one could always see Fukuda in the background or foreground making some awkward position or face.
The evening reception ended with Coonts mentioning how significant Fukuda was to the art world.
“From all the artists from present to past, Fukuda would be in the top ten,” Coonts said. “A marvelous man that is really missed.”
Twenty posters of Fukuda’s works are on display in the exhibition, along with 11 other posters from four Japanese artists: Maskazo Tanabe, Shuzo Kato, Kazumasa Nagai and Yoshiteru Asai. All of these posters carried Fukuda’s simplistic anti-war and environmental messages.
The show is free and open to the public in the University Art Museum until Dec. 22. The museum is in the University Center for the Arts, located at 1400 Remington St.
Staff writer Kelsey Schuler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.