Herbert Matter was a man who seemingly fit many lives into one by excelling in the creative disciplines of design, photography and film. The documentary The Visual Language of Herbert Matter profiles his extraordinary life and seminal work.
With the help of historical footage, vintage photographs, never-before-seen film excerpts (some shot by Matter himself) and a broad overwiew of his extensive body of work, the feature length documentary helps in bringing the picture of an almost forgotten creative genius back into focus.
Interwoven with interviews from a who’s who list of legendary artists, designer and photographers, the film sheds light on a remarkable career and its impact on the evolving language of design during the short 20th century both in the USA and Europe.
For the first time in an encompassing and comprehensive way, the film touches on the innovative expressions of his free experimental work, his fashion and advertising photography and his portraiture. His amazing talent of combining bold combinations of words, images and space is shown in his iconic Swiss travel posters, pavilion designs for the New York World’s Fair 1939, photographs for Condé Nast publications; corporate image programs for Knoll furniture, the New Haven Railroad, exhibition- and numerous catalog designs for the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum; covers for the legendary Arts & Architecture magazine and his lesser known work in film, the prime example being a film on the works of Alexander Calder.
The documentary is produced by independent Swiss production company PiXiU films, directed by award-winning filmmaker Reto Caduff and presented with a unique approach of visual storytelling: beginning with Matter’s childhood in the Swiss alps, to his training in Paris with legends such as A.M. Cassandre, Fernand Léger, and Le Corbusier, leading back to Zurich and the groundbreaking photomontage in his legendary Swiss travel posters – followed by his subsequent move to the United States.
There, the story touches on his hiring by Alexey Brodovitch, Matter’s turbulent marriage with Mercedes Carles and his friendship with modernist thinkers and artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem deKooning, Robert Frank, Charles and Ray Eames, R. Buckminster Fuller or Alexander Calder as well as his over twenty years of devotion on producing an interpretative monograph of the works of Alberto Giacometti.