2009 © Rogério Duarte & The Narrows
Project instigated by Warren Taylor, James Hibberd, Narlan Matos and Rogério Duarte Filho
Rogério Duarte. (b. 1939) Brazilian graphic designer, musician, songwriter, poet, philosopher, translator and professor. A luminous figure in the 1960s Rio creative underground and associated with the most important artistic projects of the era, he has come to be recognised as the intellectual genesis of Tropicália, along with his friend Caetano Veloso. Tropicália, an avant-garde pop music movement was as popular as it was innovative, launched the careers of many of Brazil’s most famous musicians and was Duarte's closest association with fame. A true polymath, his work spans numerous fields and decades but he is best known as a designer of record covers for many of the great names of Brazilian popular music, such as Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, João Gilberto and Jorge Ben, posters for some of the signal films of Brazilian cinema, including Black God, White Devil, as well as book covers and works in other media. This exhibition showcases the range of Duarte's creative endeavors in Brazil during his period.

Photo: Fernando Vivas

Rogerio Duarte’s influence on Brazilian graphic design

I’d like to think there is a bit of Rogério Duarte in contemporary Brazilian graphic design every time I lay my eyes on an extremely powerful ad gushing warm colors, or when design scholar Chico Homem de Melo notices the current trend of organic ameboid shaped logos in the 9th Graphic Design Brazilian Biennial. As time goes by, most subcultures have its elements incorporated by the mainstream. It happened with Tropicalism, and being Duarte its most known visual agent, it is natural that some of his graphic solutions are now scattered everywhere.

But above all, Duarte’s direct or indirect influence can be seen in the same cultural industries he acted so effusively on. In a dreamed-up art department of Brazilian music industry (which has inspired international graphic design in more ways than one might initially think), Rogério Duarte is the visual antagonist of César G. Villela, the designer of the Bossa Nova. Both artists combined photography, typography and illustration in ways only the purest graphic design methodology would permit, but while Villela was clean and economical, Duarte was abundant and generous. All over Brazil, echoes of those assemblages can be located not only in album covers and musicians websites but also in book covers of every genre and, of course, posters.

His work is ever more frequently studied in Brazilian design schools by the new generation of graphic designers, and chosen by teachers and students as theme for assignments and graduation projects. From all these constant voluntary tributes, the one I am mostly fond of is a poster designed by illustrator and Cinema academic Felipe Muanis for the international poster exhibition Discover the Brazilian Cinema, held at the 10th Shanghai International Film Festival in 2007. To illustrate the thematic changes that Brazilian films (and society) had gone through in the last four decades, Muanis substituted the cangaceiro Corisco (played by Othon Bastos) of the acclaimed poster “Black God, White Devil” (1964) by child hoodlum Dadinho, from “City of God” (2002). The fact that Muanis could rely on a four decades old layout to successfully merge the two best known Brazilian movies of all times into one image is, without a doubt, emblematic of the robustness of Rogério Duarte’s graphic design.

Bruno Porto
Graphic designer, educator, author and former director of the Brazilian Graphic Designers Association - ADG Brasil, lives in Shanghai, China.