Living in a perfect word

For Light Grey Art Lab’s motivational poster show, 33 designers collaborated without ever resorting to a cat dangling from a clothesline and “Hang in There, Baby.”

Minneapolis artist and graphic designer J. Zachary Keenan works in his studio Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in the Washington North Loop. Keenan is one of the artists featured in the You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It Exhibition at Light Grey Art Lab opening June 14.

Minneapolis artist and graphic designer J. Zachary Keenan works in his studio Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in the Washington North Loop. Keenan is one of the artists featured in the You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It Exhibition at Light Grey Art Lab opening June 14.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

Words of encouragement cover everything from the walls of fluorescent-lit offices to college dorm rooms reeking of leftover pizza — the world runs on the genre of inspirational vernacular. Now that everyone with Internet access can curate the expanding collection of stock images on Google, the motivational poster genre needs a rebirth.

Light Grey Art Lab’s new exhibition finds artistic flare in the poster world, giving life back to the stale motivational genre. Whereas Michael Scott’s walls are filled with words like “success” and “teamwork” coupled with mountain climbers and scenic vistas, “You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It” mines the personal motivations of the 33 participating artists.

“This show was a freedom to do the thing that they keep in the back of their mind — the thing that motivates them to keep going forward,” gallery manager Jenny Bookler said.

Artwork ranges from creative updates of well-worn axioms (“Love Conquers All,” “Take Courage”) to visual typography backing an inspirational quote.

Minneapolis-based graphic designer J. Zachary Keenan found the words of famed astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan for his poster. When he picked up a copy of Sagan’s “The Varieties of Scientific Experience,” he knew he struck gold.

“He transcends between scientific understanding and religious experience and finds a common ground between them,” Keenan said.

“Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known” reads the quote from the late Sagan. A seemingly vague quote may not translate the vastness of space in black and white on print, but Keenan’s design brims with brainy excitement. For Keenan, Sagan’s words reflect the unknown within the process of design.

“For me, design is not creating that end piece; design is a process,” Keenan said. “To me, design is like a glue. It helps me understand other things.”

Somewhere between colorful cartoon characters and abstract collage, Minneapolis College of Art and Design student sEason Wu plays with the unknown in his poster. Entitled “;P,” he uses an incomplete phrase as his text to generate a response to the winking emoticon.

“It’s kind of open-ended,” Wu said. “People can fill in their own information about their inspiration.”

His literal fill-in-the-blank feels at home online where the Art Lab culls from a wide array of talent. On Twitter and Tumblr, the Art Lab advertises openings to local and international artists looking to contribute, Bookler said.

“Put Your Back Into It” also utilized digital collaboration of the pieces, with artists meeting online to swap ideas and comments on projects.

“They could share their idea for their poster and everyone could feed off it,” Bookler said.

Wu could experiment with different phrases with his poster, for example. For the digitally-inclined artist, feedback via the Internet offered an instant sounding board for his abstract collage.

“Because technology makes the spread of information so fast, there’s a lot of crossover — everything can be design and everything can be art,” Wu said.

 

What: “You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It” Opening Reception

Where: Light Grey Art Lab, 118 E. 26th St. #101, Minneapolis

When: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday (on display until July 5th)

Cost: Free