Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress (5 stars)

Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress

Guardian newspapers foyer mural, Alan Kitching

Major retrospective of radical printmaker's life and work

For six decades, the typographical work of Darlington-born Alan Kitching has blazed a quiet trail that has given printed matter a visual identity which has defined its various times. To coincide with the publication of a lavishly illustrated 400 page monograph by John L Walters, this major retrospective charts how a trainee compositor went on to create a canon that moved from Jan Tschichold-inspired modernist experiments, to reinventing letterpress with an explosive energy while the rest of the world went digital.

Kitching's work has consistently channeled the vibrancy of its age, even before he combined skewed poetics and monochrome classicism for his poster advertising a screening of Peter Watkins' film The War Game, at Watford College of Technology. It was during his tenure here that he learnt as much as he taught en route to producing his seminal manifesto, Typography Manual (1970), which the bursts of colour that define his later letterpress work all stem from. In between is a breathtaking panoply of broadsides, maps and polemic, all fired with the same dazzling and forensically crafted force. The result is a vital document that illustrates a very British form of DIY radicalism it remains a part of, turning words and worlds upside down as it goes.

The Lighthouse, Glasgow until Mon 5 Mar.

Alan Kitching: A Life In Letterpress

Major retrospective of one of the masters of letterpress typographic design.

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