Goldsholl Design Associates advertising executives Fred Ota, Thomas Miller and John Weber (photo courtesy of Block Museum).

Block Museum Exhibition to Explore Legacy of Trailblazing Advertising Firm Goldsholl Design Associates

Chicago-area advertising firm Goldsholl Design Associates, headed by husband and wife Morton and Millie Goldsholl, introduced the principles of Bauhaus design to the American public through their innovative campaigns for corporations like 7UP, Motorola and Kimberly Clark. Although they were compared to some of the most celebrated design firms of the day, the Goldsholls and their designers are relatively unknown today. Yet their work elevated Chicago’s pivotal impact on American design.

The Block Museum will reexamine the innovative work of the firm and its national impact from the mid-1950s through the 1970s with the exhibition Up is Down: Mid-Century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio.

Block Museum’s Up is Down exhibition will be presented in conjunction with the Terra Foundation for American Art’s Art Design Chicago, a spirited, year-long celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of art and design, creativity and commerce.

Up Is Down is the first major exhibition to explore the trailblazing work of the Goldsholls and their advertising firm, Goldsholl Design Associates which was located Northfield, Illinois.

Beginning in the 1950s, Goldsholl Design Associates made a name for itself with innovative “designs-in-film,” applying techniques of experimental and avant-garde filmmaking to advertisements distributed to a broad audience. The studio worked at the cross-section of art, design, advertising and visual culture, producing television spots, films, trademarks, corporate identities and print advertisements for the National Football League, Revlon and Motorola.

“The Block has taken to heart the mission of the Terra Art Design initiative to encourage original scholarship that brings to light a forgotten chapter in our city’s cultural history. The creative impact and influence of this avant-garde firm was significant and has the potential to reframe how we think about Chicago’s central role in American design,” said Lisa Corrin, the Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz Director.  

​“The Goldsholls’ story unites themes that connect art history to the histories of consumer culture and the social purpose of design.”

The exhibition will highlight some of the iconic corporate logos designed by Morton Goldsholl. It will also highlight prominent advertising campaigns by the firm. Goldsholl Design Associates’ work for Motorola, Kimberly-Clark, IMC and Martin-Senour, established the firm as a leader in the design industry. Other corporate relationships such as their work for Revlon, 7UP, the National Football League and PBS offered opportunities for technical experimentation with light, collage and technology, for which the firm developed its own tools and inventions.

​The Block Museum of Art convened a number of lively Goldsholl firm “reunions” as research for the exhibition. Family and past employees convened at the museum to remember Morton and Millie Goldsholl and the vibrant and fluid culture of the firm into the 1980s. A studio ethos of collaborative creativity marked Goldsholl projects with an openness to collaboration and equity. For its day the firm was remarkably diverse, including placing women in leadership roles. The exhibition will consider the work of these associates, including Thomas Miller, one of the few African Americans nationwide working with major industry clients at the time.

“Inspired by European modernism and especially the integrative approach of the Bauhaus, the Goldsholls practiced a unique hybrid of commercial and independent work. The intersections across media and a belief in the value of experimentation helped redefine the look of everyday visual culture,” said exhibition co-curator Corinne Granof, curator of academic programs of the Block.

​​Up Is Down is curated at the Block Museum of Art by Amy Beste, director of public programs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Corinne Granof, Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. The exhibition is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.For more information or for tickets to the new exhibition, visit elmhurstartmuseum.org.

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