1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

Opening
1999
Offset lithography, 4.5 x 6.25
Printed by Digital Engraving
Collection: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

This is the front panel of my cheeky invitation to the SFMOMA exhibit, “BlackDogma: Selections from the Work of Mark Fox in the Permanent Collection of Architecture + Design.” The show was organized and curated by Aaron Betsky, and ran from April to June, 1999. 

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

View of the gallery with Eikon (right) and Beware of God (left).

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

Capitalism Consuming His Children (Moloch)
1997
Iris print on archival rag, 24 x 34
Printed by Urban Digital Color
Collection: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

I designed this piece for an environmental poster exhibit in Kyoto, Japan. The theme of the exhibit was “the Earth,” and it was held in conjunction with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (This is the conference which issued the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first climate change treaty.) 100 “distinguished artists” from around the world were invited to participate; representing the United States were Ivan Chermayeff, Seymour Chwast, Gene Frederico, Massimo Vignelli, and myself.

The image is inspired by Francisco Goya’s 1819–23 painting Saturn Devouring His Children. Moloch is an ancient Semitic god whose worship involved human sacrifice, specifically the burning of children.

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

View of the gallery with Cover Your Head (right).

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

The following text accompanied the exhibit:

Mark Fox is San Francisco’s leading proponent of agitprop. This form of “agitation propaganda” was developed by Russian graphic designers to further the cause of the Bolshevik Revolution after 1917. Fox adopts their technique of distilling designs into direct, condensed formal symbols in order to make arguments about sexuality, politics, and cultural freedom. He also introduces a poetic sense of enigma into his work. In an age in which we no longer believe in simple solutions, whether they are graphic or political, Fox hints at a higher power of persuasion that comes from implying a great deal without offering any pat answers.

A master at the specialized task of designing logos and symbols, Fox is, in all of his work, a graphic designer who both clarifies and complicates. With a simple image, form, or typeface, he sums up the nature of a corporation, brand, or institution. He has done so for a broad range of companies such as Apple Computer, Nike, Oracle, and the Buckeye Roadhouse, as well as for SFMOMA’s Architecture + Design Forum. Fox’s icons often bring to mind the legends or symbols of ancient or lost cultures, now streamlined for consumer use. His designs have the impact of early twentieth-century propaganda, the aura of medieval myth, and the thought-provoking quality of a work of critical art.

When not designing for clients, Fox produces posters and paintings that call into question general assumptions about simple images. Working primarily with silkscreen prints, Fox creates politically charged and evocative designs that seem to jump off the wall. For example, he printed the outlines of Mickey Mouse and Al Jolson onto the stock pages of The New York Times and other newspapers, titling the work howiloveya. In another piece, he juxtaposes a grainy photograph of Rodney King being beaten with the title Elvis Ain’t King. For a work called The Great Sale, he printed a shopping bag with the old Russian empire shield superimposed over the Great Seal found on the United States one dollar bill. In this image, Fox used a version of the Russian shield created by the Russian Constructivist El Lissitsky, in which the double-headed eagle has been decapitated. In an even more enigmatic piece entitled Body Politic, Fox created a silk screen by enlarging images of the bodies of ants to the point where they became abstract forms or typography. Fox also transformed one of the ant motifs into a single red icon that he titled Flag. It is these images that make up this selection from SFMOMA’s permanent collection of architecture and design. They reveal the mind of a mature and powerful designer who makes us unsure about the meaning of his marks.

Fox graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1984. He opened his own design studio, BlackDog, in 1986, and he currently lives and works in Marin County. Fox is a past president of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and teaches at the California College of Arts and Crafts.

Aaron Betsky
Curator of Architecture, Design + Digital Projects

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

Flag
1998
Screen print on sheet metal, 24 x 32
Printed by Mick Amaral at Acme Screen Printing
Collection: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

1999 SFMOMA Exhibit

Body Politic
1998

Screen print on archival board, 53.75 x 19.5
Printed by Kevin Giffen at Wranch Studios
Collection: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art