Line work: graphic design, optical illusions and mathematics collide in Franco Grignani show

Installation view of ‘Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990’ at Estorick Collection
Installation view of ‘Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990’ at Estorick Collection in London.
(Image credit: : Dan Stevens)

London gallery Estorick Collection is paying tribute to Franco Grignani with a summer exhibition dedicated to the Italian graphic designer. ‘Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990’ chronicles the work of Grignani and includes both graphics created for international brands and his more artistic output. It’s the second show of his work in the city this year following an exhibition at M&L Fine Art, which focused on his optical paintings.

Grignani is best known for his streamlined design for the Woolmark logo (a black and white line work representing a ball of yarn), which he created in 1964. In the late 1930s, he set up a graphic design studio in Milan and created logos, advertising campaigns and visuals for brands such as Pirelli and Penguin. His experimental graphics are infused with geometric abstraction, the result of his architecture and mathematics background.

La Frattura Del Rumore, by Franco Grignani, 1990.

La Frattura Del Rumore, by Franco Grignani, 1990. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Archivio Manuela Grignani Sirtoli)

This linear style is also at the core of Grignani’s paintings, produced in parallel with his graphics career. Inspired by his experiences with the futurists and featuring early op art examples, the tableaux are produced in an almost exclusively monochromatic black and white palette on photographic card. 

The Estorick show presents over 130 pieces, including paintings and works on paper, and does a poignant job at highlighting Grignani’s humour as a painter and a designer, as well as his penchant for formulae and optical deception.

Dissociazione dal Bordo, 1969.

Dissociazione dal Bordo, 1969.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Archivio Manuela Grignani Sirtoli)

Grignani’s advertisements for Dompé Farmaceutici’s Cardioritmon medicine from the 1950s

Grignani’s advertisements for Dompé Farmaceutici’s Cardioritmon medicine from the 1950s.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Archivio Manuela Grignani Sirtoli)

Advertisement for Pirelli, 1967.

Advertisement for Pirelli, 1967. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Archivio Manuela Grignani Sirtoli)

The tableaux produced in an almost exclusively monochromatic black and white palette on photographic cardHis works feature early examples of op art, the tableaux produced in an almost exclusively monochromatic black and white palette on photographic card. Photography: Dan Stevens

His works feature early examples of op art, the tableaux produced in an almost exclusively monochromatic black and white palette on photographic card

(Image credit: Dan Stevens)

Operativo Numerico (31/B), 1965

 Operativo Numerico (31/B), 1965. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Archivio Manuela Grignani Sirtoli)

INFORMATION

‘Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990’ is on view until 10 September. For more information, visit the Estorick Collection website (opens in new tab)

ADDRESS

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art 
39a Canonbury Square
London N1 2AN

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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.