Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life
September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015
Curated by Douglas Dodds, Senior Curator, Word and Image Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
A constant innovator for more than four decades, Barbara Nessim was one of the first professional illustrators to master the computer as an artistic tool. This exhibition examines her sketchbooks, hand-drawn and computer-generated illustrations, paintings, collages, textiles, and fashion.
Barbara Nessim’s distinctive graphic style has appeared on the covers of numerous American magazines, including Time, Rolling Stone, Esquire and the New York Times Magazine since the 1960s. In the early 1980s Nessim was one of the first professional illustrators to master the computer as an artistic tool. Her work ranges from provocative drawings (some for men’s magazines) and paintings that represent her underlying feminist views (Gloria Steinem was once her roommate), to advertising campaigns for major corporations (Levi’s and Ralph Lauren were among her clients) and large-scale commissions for public buildings.
Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life is organized by the Bard Graduate Center and curated by Douglas Dodds, Senior Curator in the Word and Image Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London. The exhibition features more than 150 artworks—many exhibited for the first time—from her meticulously maintained sketchbooks to hand-drawn and computer-generated illustrations, paintings, collages, and rare examples of textiles and costume. A maquette for Brideprice, a piece commissioned by Milton Glaser for the observation deck of the World Trade Center that was destroyed on September 11, 2001, will be on view, as well as collages related to recent site-specific works. The most comprehensive examination of her career to date, Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life expands upon the 2013 presentation in the V&A’s Twentieth Century gallery.
About Barbara Nessim: Barbara Nessim, a life-long New Yorker, was born in 1939. Inspired by her mother, a clothing designer, Nessim supported her education at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn by working as a fashion illustrator in New York’s garment district. Soon after graduating in 1960, she began her career as a freelance commercial illustrator. During the 1960s and 70s, her imagery reflected the changing role of women in society. In 1982, Nessim was artist-in-residence at Time Inc.’s Video Information Services. Since then, computers have played a major role in her art. Nessim has taught in the MFA Computer Arts Program at the School of Visual Arts and in the illustration department at Parsons The New School for Design, where she was chair from 1992 to 2004. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts named her its first Artist Laureate in 2009. With a career spanning more than 50 years, Nessim is actively working on new projects.
Thursday, October 16, 20146:00 pm - 7:30 pmGallery ProgramBarbara Nessim
Saturday, October 18, 20141:00 pm - 4:00 pmGallery Program
Thursday, October 23, 20146:00 pm - 7:30 pmPanel DiscussionSteven Heller
Friday, November 14, 20145:30 pm - 8:30 pmGallery ProgramJoan Chiverton
Friday, December 12, 20145:30 pm - 8:30 pmGallery ProgramJoan Chiverton
In this video produced by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Barbara Nessim discusses the many themes addressed by her work, ranging from gender-roles to the creative energy of the city she calls home. Nessim also considers the development of computer art, and explains how she came to be a pioneer of the medium.
See a preview of the exhibition.
An Artful Life in the News
50 Years of Reinventing Illustration
by Steven Heller
“As a conceptual editorial illustrator in the '60s, Barbara Nessim broke ground on multiple fronts: technology, design, and gender.” Read More
Barbara Nessim interview: "Since I love what I'm doing, why should I stop at any age?"
by Ned Dymoke
"Having been born in the Bronx and growing up in a creative community helped; all ideas were embraced. Many inventive, resourceful and original people blossomed from the environment in the late ’50s, such as Penny Marshall—who lived in our apartment building—Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and others, who were all were from the same Mosholu Parkway neighborhood during that time." Read More
Barbara Nessim: First US Retrospective Explores This Pioneering Feminist Artist Illustrator
“Barbara Nessim mounts her first retrospective exhibition in the US after her well received show in London, at the V&A (Victoria and Albert museum), in 2013. A constant innovator for more than four decades, Barbara was one of the first illustrators to utilise the computer as an artistic tool.” Read More
- Upcoming Exhibitions
- Past Exhibitions
- Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life
- Visualizing 19th-Century New York
- Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture
- Carrying Coca: 1,500 Years of Andean Chuspas
- William Kent
- An American Style
- Salvaging the Past
- Circus and the City
- The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking
- Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones
- Staging Fashion
- American Christmas Cards
- Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010
- Objects of Exchange
- Dutch New York
- Thomas Hope
- Visiting the BGC
- Gallery Programs
- Gallery Publications
- About the Gallery