Exits Exist

The Graham Foundation is pleased to present Exits Exist, an exhibition by San Francisco-based Barbara Stauffacher Solomon (b. 1928), that features site-specific supergraphics for the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House galleries, works on paper, artist's books, and a new series of sculptures.

Exits Exist is the title of the first chapter of Solomon’s experimental autobiography Why? Why Not? She begins the story of her life with her move to Switzerland to study design with Armin Hoffman at the Basel School of Design in the 1950s. There, the only American in the rigorous program at the time, she began her nearly 70-year exploration of letterforms. Armed with the rules of Swiss graphic design, Solomon went on to break them as she combined her training as a dancer, painter, with her study of architecture to establish her own oeuvre. From her work on 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets of paper, to the pioneering supergraphics at The Sea Ranch in the 1960s, Solomon shifts in scale from the page to the wall—to make, as she says, the invisible visible.

At the Graham, the bold, hard-edged abstracted letters of black and vermillion painted on the walls proclaim, “EXITS EXIST.” She manipulates the bare white expanse of the walls for her composition to completely transform the 1902 interiors of the Prairie style mansion. The letterforms envelop the viewer—from the walls to the ceilings—and extend out into the space in a new series of three-dimensional objects. If the supergraphics are punctuated with empty space, the works on paper fill space with complex grids and collage in “an infinite collection of infinite collages.” Throughout the exhibition, including books she has made over the last decade, such as: Why, Why Not?; or Utopia Myopia with the subtitle: 36 Plays on a Page, Typography & Pornography, Lines & Lies & Clues to Use, Nonsense Invents Events, A Kind of Novel Novel, her penchant for wordplay and graphic invention is in full force.

Originally planned for the spring of 2020, Exits Exist was realized through Barbara Stauffacher Solomon’s Graham Foundation Fellowship—a program that provides support for the development and production of original and challenging works and the opportunity to present these projects in an exhibition at the Graham’s galleries in Chicago. The Fellowship program extends the legacy of the Foundation’s first awards, made in 1957, and continues the tradition of support to individuals to explore innovative perspectives on spatial practices in design culture. The presentation also reengages with research that Solomon received support for in 1993, when she was first awarded a Graham grant for her work.

View of "Exits Exist: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon," Graham Foundation, Chicago, 2022. Photo: Nathan Keay.
25 February to 9 July 2022
Graham Foundation
Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place
60610 Chicago, IL
Graham Foundation
Exhibition page