"Art isn't easy." When is a departure from the expected too much?

February 3, 2017

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Last week, I wrote about how the artwork advertising a performance doesn’t have to be directly tied to its plot, production design, or star cast members. But, like all sweeping, hyperbolic generalizations I make, there are exceptions…

121776.jpgEnter the key art for the upcoming Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Sunday, for those of you who don’t know, is a musical inspired by the life of George Seurat, specifically chronicling the creation of his large-scale masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Did I mention he also essentially invented pointillism?

Taking a look at the key art for this production without considering these facts, it’s beautifully crafted. Balanced, legible, creative. At first scan, this is a play about a painter. But, once you take into consideration both the plot of the show and the actual historical figure it concerns, the brush strokes and beautiful smudged lettering in the art suddenly appear in directly competition with the ideas put forth in the script.

Does it matter? That’s a tricky question. There are many, many successful examples of advertising creative that are challenging, abstract, and have absolutely nothing to do—at first muster—with the show (immediately what comes to mind is the art for the upcoming Glass Menagerie revival). However, when there are visuals that are in direct contradiction to both the creative content of the play as well as the historical context of the actual person it portrays, its efficacy could be completely undermined.

What do you think? How’s the art? Does it matter it isn’t more pointillist-inspired? Would an illustration derivative of the original painting feel diluted or more appropriate? I'm super curious what others think about this.