Manuel Neri (b. 1930) is a Californian sculptor related to the abstract expressionist movement. Renowned for life-sized bronzes made out plaster, his singularity lies in the fragmented organicity of his figures. Thanks to a donation of more than 150 sculptures and works on paper, the Yale University Art Gallery organized an exhibition titled Manuel Neri: The Human Figure in Plaster and on Paper. The show was curated by Jock Reynolds, the gallery’s director, who is a former student of the sculptor and thus proposed a development on the artist’s teaching. The exhibition lasted from the 2nd of March 2018 to the 29th of January 2019.
The exhibition catalog offers a few essays on Manuel Neri’s work and his teaching, and displays previously unpublished archival images. It was designed by Christopher Sleboda with a radical focus on the typeface: Minotaur designed by Jean-Baptiste Levée and available from Production Type. For Sleboda, the font crystallizes the whole concept behind Manuel Neri’s work: even though Neri relentlessly aspires to render the human figure, his figures exhibits asperities and accidents, pushing classical sculpture to its limits. The choice of Minotaur can be seen as a reflection of this practice: its absence of curves, replaced with a multitude of straight lines, reevaluates what we expect from a typeface, while keeping the skeleton of an elegant early 20th century serif.
The designer’s radicality shows in the fact that Minotaur is used for all text, in all sizes, from titles to captions. This diversity of sizes confronts the reader with the changes due to optical effects: even if we see all the details of the font in titles, the abrupt contours of Minotaur disappear in small sizes. In sculpture as in type design, the question is about perception.