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Emil Antonucci graphic design papers

 Collection
Identifier: KA-0108-01

Summary

Emil Antonucci (1929-2006) was a New York-based artist, graphic artist, book designer, illustrator, publisher, and teacher. This collection contains artwork and design project materials relating to his freelance design and artistic career. Dating from the 1950s through the 2000s, materials in the collection include original artwork; design proofs and layouts; book and magazine interiors, illustrations, mechanicals, and Antonucci's writings.

Included in this collection are items pertaining to the poetry of Robert Lax, whose poetry Antonucci published on his letterpresses, The Hand Press and Journeyman Press. Finally, a number of audio recordings of Antonucci's sound art and Lax's poetry readings are contained herein.

Dates

  • 1950 - 2005
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1980

Creator

Extent

21.7 Cubic Feet (20 boxes (including 603 floppy and zip disks}, 8 oversized boxes, 4 folders)

Scope and Content of Collection

This collection documents the life and career of graphic designer, artist, and publisher Emil Antonucci through a range of materials from the 1950s to the 2000s, including original artwork, corporate design layouts and sketches, book mechanicals, audio recordings and writings. The collection also includes Antonucci's designs for New York City public spaces, including neighborhood and district logos, information kiosks, maps, and other signage.

The first series is composed primarily of biographical material. This includes items related to Antonucci’s teaching at Parsons School of Design, including correspondence, notes, and drafts of curricula. Also found here are materials relating to Antonucci's close friend and collaborator Ruth Cullen, her husband Joe Sarnelle, and their children D'Arcy and Cullen, including correspondence, photographs, and Ruth's poetry. Note that the materials pertaining to the children's books written by Cullen and illustrated by Antonucci are found in the Original artwork series. Finally, a large cache of photographs of friends and family are included in this series.

The second series highlights Antonucci's graphic design career, including his work for New York City government and institutions, as well as for various corporate clients. As a book and magazine designer, he contributed covers and interiors to a variety of progressive Catholic publications, such as Commonweal and Church--cover and page layouts, as well as sample issues, are located in this series.

Antonucci ran two small presses throughout his life: The Hand Press and, later, Journeyman Press. The third series contains original artwork, mechanicals, and design project materials relating to these presses and their publications. Most of the material in this series is related to Journeyman, and the majority of these publications are broadsides and chapbooks by the poet Robert Lax. Also included are audio reel recordings of Lax reading some of the poems published by Journeyman.

Material relating to Antonucci’s career as a visual and sound artist can be found in the fourth series. The bulk of this series consists of visual art, primarily sketchbooks containing pencil, charcoal, and ink drawings, as well as a large cache of watercolors. Items documenting Antonucci's various book projects can also be found here, including original art and design for books of his own work, illustrated editions of classic texts, and children's books created and conceived both individually and with text by Ruth Cullen. This series also contains a number of audio reels containing sound art by Antonucci, although it is not clear at this time what exactly these recordings consist of.

The collection contains a small series of some of Antonucci’s writings, including drafts and notes for articles published in Catholic magazines and journals, poetry manuscripts and notebooks, and screenplays and stage plays.

The final series, "Digital Media," consists of the contents of 603 floppy and zip disks containing files created by Antonucci. This material supplements the other contents of the collection and includes design work for artist books and magazines, corporate and non-profit clients, Catholic organizations and schools, and personal projects. Also included are digital files related to Antonucci's teaching at Parsons, as well as business correspondence and records. An index of file titles comprising the digital media may be viewed in Google docs here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Bll4OHvcHyTybQFZoMIuZz43IN0MpA54fNWAxzG5d70/pub

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment. Researchers wishing to view electronic files should indicate this in advance of scheduling appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Biographical Note

Emil Antonucci was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrant parents. Upon graduating from The Cooper Union in 1950—where he was taught by artists, calligraphers, and designers Paul Standard, Philip Grushkin, and George Salter—Antonucci began working as a freelance illustrator and book designer for publishers such as Sheed & Ward, Charles Scribner’s Sons, and Harper & Brothers. Antonucci also contributed prominent graphics to public space throughout New York City, including neighborhood and district logos, information kiosks, maps, and other signage. His work, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement typographer and printmaker Eric Gill, has been described as "soft modernism." Throughout his life, Antonucci explored a range of artistic mediums, from illustration to printmaking and publishing, as well as poetry, sound art, and filmmaking.

Antonucci won a Fulbright to study in Paris in 1955 while working as a freelance graphic designer, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958. He used funds from the latter of these awards to found the letterpress, The Hand Press. In 1959, Antonucci released The Circus of the Sun by the poet Robert Lax, with whom he had become friends through progressive Catholic circles and associations. Antonucci would go on to release a number of other Lax broadsides and chapbooks through The Hand Press and his subsequent venture, Journeyman Press. Antonucci also collaborated with Lax on several films.

Antonucci became firmly established as a freelance designer when he was commissioned to design the logo of the Four Seasons Hotel and restaurant in 1959, a design still in use as of 2016. He earned the commission through his close working relationship with the architect Philip Johnson (who did the interior design at the Four Seasons). He would go on to do design work on a number of Johnson's other architectural projects, including the New York State Pavilion--part of the 1964 New York World's Fair--and Bobst Library at New York University.

As a freelance designer, Antonucci contributed many logo, sign, and map designs to highly-visible institutions and neighborhoods throughout New York City. He also worked with corporate clients to design logos, catalogs, brochures, annual reports, and other publicity material. Among his notable clients were Lincoln Center, the Museum of Contemporary Craft (now the Museum of Arts and Design), the Times Square Business Improvement District, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ford Foundation, Parsons School of Design, and the City of New York Charter Revision commission.

Throughout his life and career, Antonucci was a committed Catholic, and contributed art and design work to a number of progressive Catholic journals, magazines, parishes, and other institutions. Having provided illustrations to the journals Catholic Worker and Jubilee, in 1964 Antonucci began a long-term affiliation with Commonweal as an illustrator, cover designer, and, sometimes, writer. His designs are commonly held to have revitalized the aesthetic of the magazine. Some of Antonucci's other notable religious-centered work include interior design for St. Thomas of Canterbury church in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, and the Congregation Beth Torah synagogue in Brooklyn.

In the nineties, Antonucci collaborated on a number of illustrated children's books with his close friend, the writer Ruth V. Cullen. Many of these book projects were published by the Paulist Press.

In addition to his design work, Antonucci taught at Parsons School of Design from 1958-1967, and later rejoined the faculty in 1980, where he taught courses such as "Senior Portfolio" and "Junior Corporate Design." Though only a part-time lecturer, Antonucci was actively engaged in program and curriculum design.

Antonucci died in 2006 in Brooklyn, where he'd lived most of his life. He never married, and had no children. He was survived by his sister, Catherine Antonucci.

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This biographical note, as well as other information in the finding aid, drew upon the following sources:

Steinfels, Peter. "Remembering Emil Antonucci," Commonweal blog, April 16 2015, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/remembering-emil-antonucci-and-commonweal.

Zhuang, Justin. "Design History 101: Quietly Beautiful Work by the Illustrator Who Drew the Four Seasons Logo," April 9 2015. https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/design-history-101-quietly-beautiful-work-by-illustrator-who-drew-four-seasons-logo/.

Arrangement

Organized alphabetically in 6 series: 1. Biographical, circa 1950s-before 2006 2. Design projects, 1953-2003 3. Journeyman Press and The Hand Press, 1956-1976 4. Original artwork, 1964-1995 5. Writings, 1950-1990 6. Digital media, circa 1990s-2005

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the estate of Catherine Antonucci in 2013; additional materials donated by Vera Nyskoklon, a friend of Catherine Antonucci, in 2016.

Title
Guide to the Emil Antonucci graphic design papers
Status
Completed
Author
Aaron Winslow
Date
August 8, 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • June 29, 2017: New School Archives staff added files to collection inventory from 2016 accretion.
  • October 24, 2018: New School Archives staff changed box numbers.
  • May 29, 2024: New School Archives staff performed a review of disks in Box 6 using new, standardized workflows which resulted in the transfer of 29 disks that were previously marked as not containing data. References in the finding aid to the number of disks in this collection have been updated to reflect a more accurate total.