Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

This billboard titled,
Can You Read?, was created in 1988 during a Brookl7n Design Workshop in LA and art directed by Shelia Levrant de Bretteville.

For those who know of de Bretteville, the primary mode of appeal is ethos; she carries a fierce reputation for initiating change through public art. A secondary mode of appeal is logos; logical illustrations and symbols are displayed to represent words.

This work was commissioned by the California Literacy Campaign to a state where the estimated levels of illiteracy are/were close to one million.

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville created the first Women's Design program at Cal Arts in 1971 and became the first tenured professor and director of studies in graphic design at Yale University School of Art in 1991. During the two decades between she pioneered a new form of graphic designer-historian on both coasts of the United States and most recently in Russia. Through her deep research into the neighborhoods where her works are sited, her respect for the everyday life and memories of a community, de Bretteville has produced more than a dozen projects that are significant and sustain their local populations. For having authored and designed innovative and feminist print graphics, as well as creating more than a dozen aesthetically rich, metaphoric projects embedding typography and images in the material fabric of public sites -- sidewalks, stairways, railings, light fixtures, stairs -- her work was featured in the Cooper Hewitt's 2000 Triennial and she was awarded the golden medal for leadership by The American Institute of Graphic Arts in 2005.
Other works by Levrant de Bretteville:
a promotional poster for School of Design, California Institute of the Arts, 1969

This necklace was originally designed for de Bretteville's colleagues, Arlene Raven and Judy Chicago when they started the Feminist Studio Workshop in 1972. Since that time, she has given them to other women with whom she shares a vision of the creation of women's culture.

a 1972 cover of the Exhibition Catalogue Womanhouse, featuring Judy Chicago

Womanhouse was a part of the Feminist art program at Cal Arts, that sought to challenge the traditional roles historically assigned to women. Artists were granted space and a voice to present and perform work about stereotypically "feminine" tasks.

Biddy Mason: Time & Place, 1991
This is one of many site specific pieces by de Bretteville. Biddy Mason was born a slave; upon her migration to the free state of California, she overcame the chains of her past and became a successful entrepreneur.

Other public pieces include: (from the left to right) sidewalk art added to remember historical little Tokyo in LA; Adorning the steps of a New York library with classics—she wanted to compare an immigrant's journey to the journey of learning and lastly the commemoration of a threshold before a old watertower in Siberia.

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