Iconic TV series Mad Men, which ended its seven season run earlier this year, was particularly appealing because of its exquisite set design. In order to capture the distinctive aesthetics of the 1960s, set designer Claudette Didul-Mann undertook painstaking research, outfitting leading character Don Draper’s office with vintage furniture pieces by the likes of Herman Miller, Knoll and Steelcase. This attention to period detail extended to the art pieces hanging in Draper’s office and in his sprawling penthouse, where he hung a wealth of abstract expressionist paintings that accurately reflected the artistic trends of the era.
Television’s connection to art and design is not new. During the mid-20th century, artistic movements exerted a powerful and lasting influence on the small screen. Continuing until January 10, 2016, the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale in South Florida is hosting Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television, the first exhibition to explore how avant-garde art influenced the look and content of network television from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s.
Revolution of the Eye highlights the visual revolution ushered in by American TV and the modernist art and design of the 1950s and 1960s, showcasing over 260 fine art objects and graphic design pieces by the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. The exhibition also examines TV’s promotion of Dada and surrealist ideas in series such as The Twilight Zone and The Ernie Kovacs Show by such pioneers as Rod Serling and Ernie Kovacs, while screening clips from classic TV shows and films, like Batman and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Taking a cue, perhaps, from the dazzling advertising world so beautifully depicted in Mad Men, the exhibition highlights the “new advertising” revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, which ushered in one of the most creative periods of the medium, through Andy Warhol and Ben Shahn’s advertising and promotional campaigns for CBS. Revolution of the Eye also examines the revolutionary corporate advertising and promotional campaigns and title sequences for TV series created by graphic designer Saul Bass, like the opening credits for Playhouse 90 and Profiles in Courage.
After its run at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Revolution of the Eye is set to go on tour across the United States, including a final show in Chicago that closes in June 2017.