"No to civilization if this is civilization": the posters that Ilio Negri created in the 70s are hotly topical, on display at the Milano Certosa District from 23 to 26 May 2024 during BIG

He was one of the great protagonists of Italian graphics, a key figure, capable of ferrying Made in Italy from the post-war recovery to modernity. He is Ilio Negri, who tiptoed into the collective imagination of an era thanks to refined and ingenious projects linked to brands such as Autobianchi, Boffi, Lagostina, Recordati, Giuliani, Pirelli.

Fifty years after his premature death, which occurred on 19 May 1974 at the age of only 48, the BIG - International Graphics Biennial now pays him the right honor by presenting thirteen of his social graphics posters from the series "NO to civilization, if this it's civilization”.

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An almost prophetic project, capable of anticipating by a few decades issues that have become very topical today such as environmental degradation, overpopulation, the destruction of animal species.

At the time - it was 1970 - Negri's work attracted a lot of attention and was then forgotten. Now it comes back to life in the spaces of the Milano Certosa District from 23 to 26 May thanks to the curatorship of his son Luca.

A perfect opportunity to rediscover the delicate creativity of Negri, considered one of the main exponents of the so-called Swiss School, a graphic style developed in the 1950s in Switzerland capable of emphasizing the simplicity, harmony, visual pleasure, readability and objectivity.

A magical universe that almost seems to live in unison with the designer's philosophy, always aimed at researching the origins of the sign, cleansing it of every irrelevant frill and aiming straight for pure, synthetic, incisive, but never banal form.

Shy, an inveterate smoker, passionate about rugby and American comics, Ilio was born in 1926 in Milan. He is above all a self-taught person who learned his trade among the machinery of the family printing shop in the central Via Brera.

At the end of the war, in 1946, he founded his own studio where he dealt with graphics and advertising.

Ten years later he joined forces with Giulio Confalonieri and created Studio Industria (subsequently Confalonieri + Negri): from this collaboration came graphic projects for brands such as Pirelli, Cassina, Boffi.

In the classrooms of the Humanitarian School he then meets Michele Provinciali and Pino Tovaglia, both teachers of the technical-artistic courses that involve , together with Confalonieri, in the creation of a large professional firm, in the wake of the agencies born in the United States: the CNPT is born.

The project was short-lived. Confalonieri leaves the group after a few months, then comes the defections of all the others. In this short adventure, however, important works came to light: from the acronyms for RAI to the advertising campaigns for Total and Superga, up to the first example of a coordinated image of a self-service for the Splügen Bräu, designed by Achille Castiglioni.

It was the Sixties and Negri collaborated with photographers of the caliber of Ugo Mulas, Aldo Ballo and Giampaolo Barbieri and architects such as Ponti, Rosselli, Frattini and Bettonica. To this activity, he then combines a very careful study of formal graphics capable of almost turning to abstraction.

For example, the tables that reproduce the possible variables of composition of geometric figures on modular grids are from this phase. In the environment he is known for his spasmodic attention to detail and mathematical proportions, for his profound knowledge of technical issues which however never prevail over compositional ones.

The project "No to civilization if this is civilization" was born precisely in this period, strongly marked by civil commitment and the need to delve deeper into the themes of social communication. His peak came with his participation in the 1970 Rimini Biennale entitled "Man's aggression and violence towards the environment" for which Ilio created the 13 posters.

On each maxi poster, designed and produced in the garden of his house, there is a portrait of his daughter, Silvia Negri Firman (now the founder of an independent communication and marketing agency) who was 4 years old at the time. The little girl appears with a gas mask or while she is leafing through a book with a blindfold covering her eyes. She seems disorientated, threatened, scared. A bit like we are today, more than half a century later.