The Center de design UQAM de Montréal presents graphic design for all ages by Henning Wagenbreth

“A UFO has landed in Montreal, depositing its cargo of very unusual graphic objects at the Center de design de l’UQAM. The commander of the spacecraft is the Berlin poster designer and illustrator Henning Wagenbreth.”

What better way to present Wagenbreth’s extraterrestrial work, exhibited since the end of February in Montreal, Canada under the title Graphic design for all ages”. The world famous illustrator puts his talent as a graphic designer at the service of all possible fields: illustration, posters, books, postage stamps, album covers, games, costumes and theater sets, stuffed animals. His colourful, deconstructed and full of life works may seem naive, but they are neat in every detail and very recognizable, with their caricatures of humans, robots, rockets and all kinds of hellish machines.

The UQAM Design Center is one of the few exhibition spaces in Canada to host cross-sectional exhibitions illustrating historical and current trends in graphic design, industrial and urban design, architecture and fashion. “Graphic design for all ages” was organized by Marc H. Choko, professor emeritus at the University of Quebec in Montreal, where he taught from 1977 to 2018.

In addition to the large screen-printed posters representing the essentials of Wagenbreth’s work, Graphic design for all ages brings together creations in multiple formats produced using various printing techniques, inviting the visitor to discover the entire work of an artist qualified as “a juggler of ideas and illustrations, whose graphic style evokes Art Brut”. His illustrations resemble geometric puzzles, supplemented with composite typography designed by Wagenbreth himself.

Wagenbreth enjoys irresistibly drawing viewers of his illustrations into his universe, a universe of living poetry that seems to have been written by a sensitive boy hurt by the state of contemporary society.

Henning Wagenbreth was born in 1962 and grew up in East Germany. From an early age, he engaged in actions against the regime, until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then, he has translated his critical vision of society into thought-provoking images: his social and political commentary is brimming with sarcastic humor and insightful satire. His playful approach to graphic design first draws visitors to the exhibition and then, upon closer inspection, leads them to ponder obscure but meaningful questions.

In the end, the idea that inspires the exhibition is not that of entertaining the user, but that of sending a deep message awakening a social conscience that is too often stifled. “The readability of my idea is important” says the artist, “I catch people with an interesting image, then they look at the rest”. From Wagenbreth’s perspective, anything is worth a laugh, whether bitter or joyful, and the artist manages to pull it off with his decades of experience and the unusual style of his work.


Exhibition partners:
UQAM School of Design, Goethe Institut, Mp, V2COM

Address and opening hours:
UQAM Design Center – 1440 Sanguinet Street, Montreal, Canada
Wednesday – Sunday, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

All images courtesy of Henning Wagenbreth and Center de design de l’UQAM

Clifton L. Boyd