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. “The legibility of my idea is important,” he says with a bit of a smile. “I grab people with an interesting image, and then they look at the rest.” Obviously, in Wagenbreth’s view, everything is worth a laugh and he certainly knows how to get us going.
Dates: February 24 to April 10, 2022
Open to the general public: February 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Curator: Marc H. Choko
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.
Marc H. Choko is professor emeritus in the School of Design at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where he taught from 1977 to 2018. He was research director at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) Urbanization, Culture and Society from 1985 to 2005 and director of the Design Centre from 1999 to 2008.
Choko is passionate about posters and has collected them since his youth. Since the early 1980s, he has organized exhibitions, many as curator, and published numerous recognized books on poster art. From 2008 to 2018, he was a lecturer in graphic design and culture at the School of Design at UQAM. He now devotes his professional life to the publication of books, the production of exhibitions, and giving lectures on graphic designs and poster art.
Address and opening hours
UQAM Design Center
1440 Sanguinet Street
Wednesday - Sunday, 12 pm - 6 pm
Tel. : 514 987-3395