Abstract and Op Art design, art, Bernard Pomerance author, book, Cold War, culture, education, Equus play title, Eric Berne M.D. author, Games People Play book title, Gilbert Lesser designer, Graphic Designers, Grove Press, Iron Curtain, Kurt Vonnegut author, Mid Century graphic design, Philosophical Library, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy in the Soviet Union book title, Roy Kuhlman designer, Social Change book title, Sociology, Studio 54 logo, The Elephant Man play title, Theater and set design, Victor Vaserely, Wilbert E. Moore author
This rare Evergreen title Psychotherapy in the Soviet Union was published by the Grove Press in New York in 1962 with a 1961 copyright by the Philosophical Library. The cover design was by the great American graphic designer Roy Kuhlman (1923-2007).
Wait just a minute! Were we not in some sort of “Cold War” between the “Western World” and the “Communist East”? Yes we were! Apparently some United States scientists had no problem in getting this advanced psychiatric material from the Soviets, or from behind the “Iron Curtain”. Did those US scientists practice similar manipulative techniques?
We do have another book cover here, a Grove Press Number B-186Q, Games People Play by Eric Berne, M.D. which looks like Roy Kuhlman’s abstract design work, but there is no designer name to be found in the book. The date for this paperback is 1967 with the original copyright date of 1964. The paperback is subtitled The Psychology of Human Relationships. The book describes an intellectual topic much in vogue in the sixties and seventies that did not stop the decaying of society on the whole very much. “Understanding” is not synonymous with “Improving“.
Among the commentaries found on the inside cover, there is an interesting few lines by the well known author Kurt Vonnegut who describes the book as follows: “This is an important book-if not to scientists, then to laymen in their anguished need for simple clues as to what is really going on.”
A good example of a 1960’s abstract period cover is the one below Social Change by Wilbert E. Moore in four colors but with very restrained use of type and color. This copy is a third printing 1964 with a copyright date of 1963. No credit is given to the designer by the publisher Prentice-Hall.
The cover resembles some abstract art work called Op-Art by artists of the period, who had an enormous influence on the development of graphic design, the most important one was Victor Vaserely.
A favorite of mine is this abstract three color cover by Gilbert Lesser (1935-1990) on this Grove Press printed edition of 1979 of the play The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance (1940-) this is the first American imprint. The play won a Tony Award in 1979.
Gil or Gilbert Lesser was best known for his poster and set design like the one below for the play Equus, a sad story about a psychiatrist and the mistreatment of horses. Have a look at this almost totally abstract interpretation, but what teeth!
Gil Lesser was the first American Designer who was honored with an exhibition of some 80 poster designs in 1987 in Paris at the Arts Decoratifs Museum in the Louvre, it then went on to London for display at the Design Museum. His background included promotional work for Life Magazine and Fortune. Shown below a brochure from the early sixties done for Remington Rand.
Lesser designed the logo for the famous New York nightclub Studio 54, once playground for Andy Warhol and many socialites with their groupies.
Less known in non design circles, his monochromatic use of color was very much in tune with the then prevailing hard edge European styles. His work is found in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York and others.