Friday, 6 January 2017

Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress

The Lighthouse, Glasgow until March 5th
Five stars

For six decades, the typographical work of Darlington-born Alan Kitching has blazed a quiet trail that has given printed matter a visual identity which has defined its various times. To coincide with the publication of a lavishly illustrated 400 page monograph by John L Walters, this major retrospective charts how a trainee compositor went on to create a canon that moved from Jan Tschichold-inspired modernist experiments, to reinventing letterpress with an explosive energy while the rest of the world went digital.

Kitching's work has consistently channelled the vibrancy of its age, even before he combined skewed poetics and monochrome classicism for his poster advertising a screening of Peter Watkins' film, The War Game, at Watford College of Technology. It was during his tenure here that he learnt as much as he taught en route to producing his seminal manifesto, Typography Manual (1970), which the bursts of colour that define his later letterpress work all stem from. Inbetween is a breathtaking panoply of broadsides, maps and polemic, all fired with the same dazzling and forensically crafted force. The result is a vital document that illustrates a very British form of DIY radicalism it remains a part of, turning words and worlds upside down as it goes.

The List, January 2017

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