AIGA opens exhibition "Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist"

On view at the AIGA National Design Center October 1–January 9

New York—September 26, 2014. Next week, AIGA, the professional association for design, opens “Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist”—a vibrant and inspiring retrospective of a designer who pioneered New Wave design while carving his own path from academia to corporate design, experimental European commissions and AIDS activism in the East Village art scene. This exhibition is organized and designed by AIGA Medalist Chris Pullman and Laura Varrachi of LVCK Environmental Graphics with support from Dan Friedman's brother Ken Friedman.

Examples of Friedman’s influential pedagogy, corporate graphics, fantasy furniture, commissioned objects and exhibition catalogues have been gathered from the collections of Ken Friedman, Keith Godard and Katrin Adam, Paul Ludick, Chris and Esther Pullman, and Tom Strong. Inspired by the autobiography and companion exhibition Friedman created near the end of his life, the installation is structured around the diverse phases of Friedman’s career, fully exploring his eccentric and inspiring journey to recapture the idealistic roots of modernism with postmodern flare.

“Dan was a colleague of mine on the faculty at Yale and a long-time friend,” explains Chris Pullman. “Although our professional paths diverged in the mid 70’s, we kept in touch—sporadically at first but then more frequently as he dramatically morphed from corporate designer to hip-hop artist. Ideas he was trying out then are making a lot of sense today. If my students are any measure, I am certain that today’s young designers will connect with Dan’s wide-ranging model of practice, preference for self-directed projects and commitment to working for the public good.”

About Dan Friedman

Designer, artist, educator and writer Dan Friedman (1945-1995) moved seamlessly between the disciplines that made up his dynamic, though abbreviated, career. Born in Cleveland, Friedman studied at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and overseas at the design schools in Ulm and Basel, where he was mentored by renowned designers Armin Hofmann and Wolfgang Weingart. Returning to the U.S. in 1969, he began teaching in the graduate design program at Yale. There he developed a new rigorous but expansive design methodology that veered away from the prevailing influence of cool, rational Swiss Modernism and helped build the expressive, postmodern foundations of New Wave design.

Friedman left academia in 1975 to practice design in New York, soon creating posters, packaging, publications and identity programs for major clients. His comprehensive rebranding for Citicorp set a new standard for corporate design and prompted his invitation to join Pentagram’s fledgling New York office.

But Friedman gradually became disillusioned with design in service to business and immersed himself in the vibrant East Village art scene, working and exhibiting with Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Kenny Scharf and Tseng Kwong Chi, among others. He transformed his apartment into an eccentric, constantly evolving visual laboratory and poured his creativity into works of fantasy furniture, commissioned objects and “post-nuclear” assemblages—all exhibited in New York as well as Paris and Milan. As the art community became engulfed in the AIDS crisis, he devoted his design skills to AIDS activism, living himself in the shadow of the disease for a decade.

Near the end of his life, Friedman wrote and designed Dan Friedman: Radical Modernism. Here he reaffirmed the idealistic early twentieth-century tenets of modernism, while rejecting its compromise as corporate style and advocating a more expressive formal language and humane purpose. Friedman’s eclectic career and unifying philosophy provide an inspirational model for today’s young designers, challenging them still to live and work with passion and responsibility and to improve society by embracing culture, diversity and fantasy.

“This exhibition honors the memory of a designer whose work and words resonate today as bold and remarkably versatile—even 20 years after his death,” notes AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé. “To those familiar with Friedman’s story, it is a special opportunity to see the many colorful puzzle pieces of his career fit together. And for students and emerging designers, it provides a fresh new role model whose philosophy of design, culture and social impact remains as relevant as ever.”

See the exhibition

The exhibition is on view from October 1, 2014 through January 9, 2015 at the AIGA National Design Center in New York City. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Gallery hours

Monday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

AIGA National Design Center Gallery
164 Fifth Avenue (between 21st and 22nd Streets)
New York, NY 10010
212 807 1990

Opening reception

AIGA members and the public are invited to view the exhibition at a reception on Wednesday, October 1 from 6:00–8:00 p.m. at the AIGA National Design Center.

About AIGA

AIGA, the professional association for design, advances design as a professional craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. As the largest community of design advocates, we bring together practitioners, enthusiasts and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future. We define global standards and ethical practices, guide design education, inspire designers and the public, enhance professional development, and make powerful tools and resources accessible to all. Learn more at

For more information, please contact AIGA, the professional association for design.

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