Retrospective showcases Primo Angeli’s bold designs 

Primo Angeli, the graphic artist behind event posters and product logos designed for clients ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to beer and sourdough-bread makers, is the subject of a comprehensive show at Museo Italo Americano in The City.

“Primo Angeli: A Retrospective,” running through April 19, includes posters, packaging, and other items created by Angeli, whose style boasts an emotional accessibility, direct point of view and more narrative complexity than typical in advertising design.

On the local landscape for decades, Angeli has contributed to the Bay Area’s worldwide reputation for graphic-arts edge and talent.

Anecdotes, artist statements and information relating to Angeli’s craft and purpose accompany the art in the show.

Festivals and commemorative celebrations are a focus of the posters in the exhibit.

One marking the Golden Gate Bridge’s 50th anniversary features a stylized rendition of the vermilion span, along with lettering in complementary sea-blue, recalling Art Deco designs popular when the bridge was built.

A poster celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter, which took place in San Francisco, contains a design combining U.N. and Golden Gate Bridge imagery.

Additional posters promote the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco International Film Festival and “San Francisco Week” in Sydney, Australia. The latter contains a witty image of the Transamerica Pyramid in party mode, piercing a martini olive.

The exhibit also contains a section devoted to Angeli’s designs for the Olympic Games – a high-profile poster marking the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, among them.

Designs associated with product identity include packaging used by Boudin bakery, with its familiar grain-colored wheat image, plus logos created for Ben & Jerry’s, DHL, Henry Weinhardt’s, Tommy’s Joynt and many others.

Social statement infuses “The Silent Majority,” a poster in which that Nixon-uttered phrase headlines a photograph of Vietnam War-era cemetery gravestones. Described by Angeli as capturing the realities of war, the poster was distributed at a local peace march.

The exhibit also looks at Angeli’s 1970s interchangeable modular artwork used in geometric murals – a development still reflected in mural art.

Angeli, now in his 80s, moved to Northern California in 1959 after studying art and design at Southern Illinois University and launched his own design company in San Francisco in 1967. He has received more than 400 awards, including CLIO, Mobius, and American Graphic Design awards.

His designs have been seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


Primo Angeli: A Retrospective

Where: Museo Italo Americano, Building C, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays: closes April 19

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 673-2200,

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Anita Katz

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