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Exhibit Peers Behind Magazine Covers

The first 1936 issue of Life featured a cover photo by Margaret Bourke-White.

The USC Annenberg School for Communication will present “Cover Stories: Magazine Design in Germany and the U.S., 1920-1970,” an exhibit of magazine covers highlighting the cross-national exchange in publishing from the golden age of the illustrated press to post-war influences. The exhibit runs through May 21.

Globalism took root in the early 20th century as technology began to allow faster travel and communication. The history of magazines reflects this early period of globalization in the cross-national exchange of graphic design and editorial concepts between German and American magazines. This exhibit � curated by communication scholar Patrick Roessler � highlights this international cross-pollination of creativity in publishing.

“In our digital age, few realize the role of the photo magazine in shaping Western societies’ view of the world in the days before television and the Internet,” said Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and an expert in visual communication. “Even fewer know that the familiar look and style of Life magazine and its U.S. and British counterparts in the ‘golden age’ of the photo magazine was actually invented by the pioneering German magazine editors of the 1920s and 1930s, mostly on the left, who found refuge from the Nazis in England and America. This exhibit offers a powerful and compelling introduction to the history of photojournalism in the 20th century.”

“The exhibit focuses on news and entertainment magazines of the popular press,” said Roessler, a communication professor at the University of Erfurt in Germany. “On display are original issues of famous Life, Time and Look magazines, as well as their German counterparts.”

The exhibit features 100 covers from Roessler’s extensive collection, beginning with the first golden age of the illustrated press in the 1920s and the influence of the new typography developed by the Bauhaus avant garde and its influence on the popular press.

“Popular magazines were always perceived as a cultural artifact of minor value in Germany,” Roessler said. “Thus, public and academic libraries have always refused to stock these media outlets. My collection, consisting of 10,000-plus selected magazines from different countries, can be seen as a supplement filling this historical gap.”

Different sections review German and American tendencies in the areas of news, fashion and movie magazines, with a special emphasis on bilingual and multilingual magazines published for propaganda purposes. In each of these areas, World War II and the exile of many intellectuals fleeing Nazi Germany marked a major rupture in this exchange of ideas and concepts, but at the same time served as a catalyst for the spread of modern magazine design.

The exhibit is on view at the Annenberg Gallery, on the second floor of the Annenberg School building. Regular viewing will be Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Exhibit Peers Behind Magazine Covers

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