A selection of masterpieces by Berlin artist Henning Wagenbreth
A UFO has landed in Montréal, dropping off its cargo of highly unusual graphic objects at the UQAM Design Centre. The spaceship’s commander is the Berlin poster artist and illustrator Henning Wagenbreth. His world is composed of comic-book characters that provide almost all of his works with a caricatured human presence, robots, rockets, and infernal machines.
Wagenbreth spreads his graphic design talent in all directions: illustrations, posters, books, stamps, record jackets, games, theatre costumes and sets, puppets. His colourful, teeming, deconstructed works may seem naïve, but they are perfectly thought out and masterful. Easily identifiable, they have made their creator’s name internationally. Raised in East Germany, Wagenbreth was involved in some anti-regime activities until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then, his critical gaze at society has been embodied in images that are intended to make us think. His social and political commentary is usually leavened with a bit of sarcastic humour and perceptive satire. His playful approach to graphic design first draws his clients in and then, at second glance, leads them to reflect on questions that are serious, even dark. Ultimately, the idea is not to please but to send a message.
Aside from the very large serigraphy posters that are typical of Wagenbreth’s work, the exhibition brings together creations in different formats produced through a variety of printing techniques. They invite visitors in to discover the work of Wagenbreth, a juggler of ideas and illustrations, whose graphic style evokes Art Brut. The illustrations consist of cut-out pieces, almost like geometrical puzzles, to which are added the composite typography that Wagenbreth designs himself. All are arranged in a visual cacophony that may draw inspiration from the surrealists’ exquisite corpse technique. As he enjoys himself, Wagenbreth irresistibly draws us into his world – a world of visual poetry and sensitive children, sometimes wounded by the state of society.
Henning Wagenbreth was born in 1962 in Eberswalde, East Germany, and studied at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee from 1982 to 1987. Since he has worked mainly as an illustrator. He creates graphic design and his own typefaces, and he includes both artisanal and industrial techniques in his creative process. He lives in Berlin but has spent time in Paris and San Francisco. He illustrates and creates graphic designs for all formats, from stamps to banners, including single paintings, series of prints, books, posters, newspapers, and magazines. Sometimes, he strays into animation and theatre. With the group The Mazookas, he combines visual discourse with projections and music. Since 1994, he has taught visual communications at the Universität der Künste Berlin. He has received the award for “the most beautiful book in the world” from Stiftung Buchkunst in 2000 and many others for his posters and books. He has had exhibitions all over the world and has been a member of AGI since 2002.
About UQAM Design Center
The UQAM Design Center is one of the only venues in Canada to present exhibitions that illustrate historical and current trends in the fields of graphic, industrial and urban design, as well as in architecture and fashion. Founded in 1981 on the initiative of professors from the UQAM School of Design, the Design Center has produced about 350 exhibitions, aimed at design professionals, students and the general public. It has thus contributed for the past 40 years to the development of a design culture and to its local and international influence through the prestigious exhibitions that it hosts, as well as through the creation of numerous traveling exhibitions, presented in more than ten of countries, mainly dedicated to the recognition of Quebec design.