Almost every seat in the Harris Hall auditorium was filled as Elle Lupton, the curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), spoke on Oct. 24 about the Block Museum’s newest exhibit "Up Is Down: Mid-Century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio.” The discussion hoped to connect design thinking in art and film with business and marketing.
“Up is Down” centers around the Chicago-based design firm Goldsholl and Associates, which was run by Morton and Millie Goldsholl. Inspired by their time at Chicago’s Institute of Design, the Goldsholls possessed an “ethos of aesthetic experimentation and social engagement,” according to the Block Museum’s website. Filled with films, television ads, print ads, photographs and drawings, “Up Is Down” illuminates the creative functions behind advertising and Chicago's influence on design techniques.
Drawing on the concept of "design in film," Lupton began with an experimental film the couple created that played with light, space and form by videotaping the city from a moving car. The resulting film consisted of a series of blurred and brightly-colored circles, or “a bunch of polka dots,” as Lupton said.
Lupton went on to show one of Goldsholl's first video advertisements for Kleenex, which used two dancing gloves that fall in love to sell tissues. In the video, the male glove saves the day by bringing the female glove a tissue when she sneezes.
Sophomore Amy Greenberger, an economics and art theory double major, said the Kleenex commercial was her favorite.
“The lights and story line made the commercial endearing,” she said. “[Besides the Kleenex video] overall, I thought it was cool seeing the connection between experimental video and advertising.”
To end the presentation, Lupton showed an excerpt from the exhibition's namesake, in which a boy who has previously walked on his hands looks up, only to see the hate and violence of the world, decides to return walking on his hands to seek a more positive world (hence, "up is down"). The discussion ended on this note, prompting the audience to re-evaluate their interpretations of the world around them and, as the Goldsholls did, challenge perception.
The Block exhibition of Goldsholls’ design firm will be open until Dec. 9.