Günther Kieser

(Karl Georg) Günther Kieser was born in 1930, in Kronberg, near Frankfurt/Main. His education being interrupted because of the war years, Kieser enrolled at the Werkkunstschule (today: Hochschule für Gestaltung / College of Design) Offenbach, where he studied from 1946 — 49. He then worked as a free-lance graphic artist. Already as a student, Kieser had come to know Hans Michel, and the two artists founded a joint studio in 1952. This cooperation was to last until 1962. During these years, the artists created works for the German mail service, »Deutsche Bundespost,« and the radio network »Hessischer Rundfunk.« They signed their works with »M+K.« In 1956, Kieser joined the Deutscher Werkbund / German Work Federation and then became a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). In 1981, he was awarded a professorship for Visual Communication at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, a position he held until 1992.

In the late 1940s, Kieser came to know Horst Lippmann, founder of one of the first Jazz concert agencies in Germany: Lippmann & Rau. Lippmann was also one of the owners of the Frankfurt »Hotclub« and, in 1948, Kieser received commissions for first posters: »(…) with these posters, a pictorial language emerged that was continuously publicized and was allowed to develop freely« (Kieser, in: Taunus Edition 3/2007). Kieser and Michel kept embarking on joint projects, designing posters for concerts by Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, and John Coltrane. While Michel’s more abstract works were mostly characterized by the combining of photography and linocuts, Kieser tended to contribute graphic qualities that relied on drawing and collage.

After ending his cooperation with Michel in 1962, Kieser worked primarily for Lippmann & Rau, for the Deutsche Jazz Festival Frankfurt, and the Berliner Jazz Tage. With his poster for the American Folk Festival, a specific graphic design that combines drawing and writing into block-like formations emerged. It was a design that marked the beginning of a long-term creative and advertising concept. Kieser’s posters became an integral part of the new music scene and its visual culture. They were on the walls of bars, in concert halls, on billboards. With their critical political perspectives and their themes that took up current issues, they positioned themselves in a contemporary historical context. The mostly photographic poster sujets emerging in the following years connect bold designs with object-like arrangements. They link elements of drawing and painting with three-dimensional fantasy objects that Kieser had made especially for his posters. Posters such asJimi Hendrix Experience, a concert poster from 1969 made for the Festhalle Frankfurt, came to be a symbol of a new music scene and a new generation. It shows the multi-media strategies situated between poster and object art and photographic mediation.

With the provocative touring poster Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (1970), the basic function of the block-like typeface that was typical of the time – in Kieser’s posters, typeface is always closely related to the pictorial contents – became proverbial. Like the abdomen of Michelangelo’s David, done as mounted collage with the bearded head of Frank Zappa placed in a delicate spot, the two informative text blocks in the lower part function as elements that support the leg as well as the picture. In his work done during the 1980s and 1990s, Kieser still kept up those heterogeneous pictorial elements through artful methods of composition that joined text layout, and photography. The poster done for the Frankfurter Jazzfestival 1990 that turns the intricate construction of a head made of brass instruments into its single sujet, again documents Kieser’s medium-transcending notion of design that goes far beyond the means of graphic design. As usual with Kieser, he takes up the traces of an Arcimboldo, disclosing orientation points in art history, and does this entirely without digital methods of picture production.

Kieser’s works haven been much publicized in their function as posters: on programs, on record covers, but also in the context of exhibitions. Among the locations where his posters were shown are the Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and institutions and galleries in Berlin and Bern. His works were also exhibited in Mexico, Poland, and China.

Günther Kieser lives and works in Frankfurt/Main.

Selected Literature

Politik, Pop und Afri-Cola. 68er Plakate: Ausst.-Kat. Museum Folkwang, Essen 2008

PERSONA 2002: Günther Kieser: Ausst.-Kat. Galeria Sztuki Wozownia, hg. v. Z. Schubert, R. Janska, Torun 2002

Günther Kieser – Plakate, Exchange: Ausst.-Kat. Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Funkhaus Frankfurt/M., hg. v. Hessischen Rundfunk, Mainz 1995

Kontraste – Musikplakate von Günther Kieser und Niklaus Troxler: Ausst.-Kat. 1994

Das zweite Gesicht. Plakate von Günther Kieser: Ausst.-Kat. hg. v. F. Mellinghoff, Mainz 1989

Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014 Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger

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