A Conversation with artist: Viktor Koen. March 8, 2012.
I was going to write up something nifty about my good friend Viktor Koen but when I looked at the material he sent to me about his up-coming show–METAMORPHABETS–at the Type Directors Club opening on March 22, I realized he’d done most of the heavy lifting for me.
METAMORPHABETS @ The Type Directors Club– March 22 – April 30/2012
Metamorphabets showcases Viktor Koen’s ongoing preoccupation with integrating images, symbols, and concepts into typography. For the last fifteen years, illustrated type has been a natural extension of his work as an illustrator and artist. Drawn to typography in his senior year of art school in Israel, he now considers graphic design to be second nature to him. From the publication of his limited-edition portfolio, Funnyfarm: The alphabet of mental disorders, in 1998 to the most recent exhibition of Warphabet in Athens last November, his commitment to social criticism has found expression in his meticulously structured typeforms.
Even words constructed for assignments with specific thematic requirements incorporate his seamless and layered approach, his preferred textures, and the (even if only momentary) believability with which he tries to infuse his images. After completing one such assignment—a cover for The New York Times Book Review—Steven Heller commented that “this ‘job’ was…the first sign to me that Koen could be a Photoshop scribe” and that “during the ensuing years [Koen] has…given new meaning to Moholy Nagy’s term ‘typo-foto.’” Heller concluded that Viktor Koen’s “compositions are a kind of beacon in this age when the computer is altering many of design and typography’s standards.”
“Warphabet” Viktor Koen, 2011, 9”x9” digital prints on paper, edition of 24
“Warphabet” is series of alphabet prints, inspired by armed conflict. An illustrated typeface I wanted to design for a while now and which, unfortunately, became current and very urgent. Clearly these are not images about the beauty of weaponry, but a commentary on its uses, results, sale, and distribution. Thus the series is titled “Warphabet” and not “Gunphabet,” as originally planned. The use of arms and armor throughout covers a wide but random chronology of man killing man. Random, because it made no sense adhering to any kind of order when it comes to something so senseless.
By molding guns into letters, the connection between the horrors of war and our daily vernacular becomes an even closer one. Reporting, describing, and discussing conflict related death is a casual part of our routine, even if we are physically so distant from it. This off-course is nothing new, but with our unprecedented ease of spreading information and visuals has turned carnage into something we are served with at our every turn, and has inevitably made us completely numb to it.
When many years ago, I asked my grandfather, Barouch Sevi, a World War II veteran, about war, I expected a movie like description of guts and glory. He only said it was filthy and spoke no more about it. Maybe this explains the fact that these letters are not shiny tributes to military technology, but a fusion of rusted metal and broken bones.
In June of 2011 “Warphabet” was showcased in the Irene Gallery, Nicosia, Cyprus (an exhibition organized by the Department of Design & Multimedia, University of Nicosia) in September was exhibited in the Coningsby Gallery in London and in November it was part of the Athens Photo Festival at the Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Gallery/HAU. In March 2012 is scheduled to exhibit at the legendary Type Directors Club in New York City and in May at the Kalos&Klio Showroom, in Thessaloniki, Greece.