Artistic Dirtnap: Shigeo Fukuda 1932-2009

Shigeo Fukuda (February 4, 1932 – January 11, 2009) was a sculptor, graphic designer and poster designer  who created optical illusions. His art pieces usually portray deception, such as Lunch With a Helmet On, a sculpture created entirely from forks, knives, and spoons, that casts a detailed shadow of a motorcycle.

Fukuda was born on February 14, 1932 in Tokyo to a family that was involved in manufacturing toys. After the end of World War II, he became interested in the minimalist Swiss style of graphic design, and graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1956.

The New York Times described how Fukuda’s posters “distilled complex concepts into compelling images of logo-simplicity”. His commercial work included his creation of the official poster for the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka Japan . A 1980 poster created for Amnesty International features a clenched fist interwoven with barbed wire, with the letter “S” in the word “Amnesty” at the top of the poster formed from a linked shackle. “Victory 1945”, one of his best-known works, features a projectile heading straight at the opening of the barrel of a cannon. A pair of posters created to celebrate Earth Day include a design showing the Earth as a seed opening against a solid sea-blue background and “1982 Happy Earth Day”, which shows an axe with its head against the ground and a small branch sprouting upwards from its handle.

In 1987, Fukuda was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in NYC, which described him as “Japan’s consummate visual communicator”, making him the first Japanese designer chosen for this recognition. The Art Directors Club noted the “bitingly satirical commentary on the senselessness of war” shown in “Victory 1945”, which won him the grand prize at the 1975 Warsaw Poster Contest, a competition whose proceeds went to the Peace Fund Movement.

His home outside Tokyo featured a 4-foot-high front door that would appear far away from someone approaching the house. This door was a visual trick, with the actual entrance to the house being an unornamented white door designed to blend in seamlessly with the walls of the house.

Fukuda died January 11, 2009, after suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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