The work of Pentagram’s Abbott Miller is the focus of an exhibition currently on view at the Centro Roberto Garza Sada (CRGS), the new art and design center at the Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico. Miller recently created the program of environmental graphics and signage for CRGS, which was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando and is known as the “Gate of Creation.” The show coincides with the school’s annual UDESIGN Conference, where Miller was the keynote speaker and led a special workshop for designers. The exhibition remains on view through April, and looks ahead to Miller’s upcoming book, Design and Content, to be released in May.
Titled An Exhibition Is a Room with a Plot, the show encompasses Miller’s designs for identities, environments, books, magazines, products and digital media, including recent projects like patterns for Knoll and Formica, and iPad apps for 2wice. The exhibition is presented in two of the CRGS Galleries, glass-fronted cubes located just inside the massive void at the heart of Ando’s building.
Miller’s design for the exhibition offsets the raw physicality and subdued tones of Ando’s monumental structure with a lively, colorful mix of graphics and images. The two levels of the gallery have been loosely organized according to discipline, with design for branding and identity featured on the ground floor and design for books, publications and apps installed upstairs.
To create continuity among the wide-ranging works, Miller developed a display strategy that turns them into repeating graphic patterns. Different projects are represented in a series of vertical banners hung on bars that are connected to the pucks used to fabricate the concrete walls. The vertical lines echo the striations in the concrete (also the inspiration for Miller’s donor signage installation in the UDEM lobby) and suggest the way in which reproduction defines design.
The banners appear in varying widths of digital output on canvas and vinyl wall coverings for Knoll that are cut into strips. Pages from books and screens from apps appear in sequence, creating a playful “slot machine” aesthetic that stands out in the austere environment of Ando’s building. At the center of each room is an “X” formed by the crossing of a light table for transparencies of environmental projects and a display case featuring books and publications.
A series of short phrases from Miller’s book are threaded throughout the exhibition, appearing on banners and the gallery’s glass façade in both Spanish and English. The brief, Twitter-friendly sayings—“a book is a movie you hold in your hands,” “identity links pixels and bricks,” and “the only way to do it is to do it” (a quote attributed to Merce Cunningham)—are designed to inspire students and tie the exhibition into the educational environment. A display at the gallery entrance pairs “a white cube is a black box” with “do what you can, with what you have, where you are” (a quote by Theodore Roosevelt), especially appropriate in the context of Ando’s extraordinary new building for the UDEM community. The phrases have also been applied to t-shirts, pencils and cups as souvenirs for the students.