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Kalman, Tibor


KALMAN, TIBOR (1949–1999), U.S. graphic designer. A native of Budapest, Hungary, Kalman moved with his family in 1957 to Poughkeepsie, n.y., after the unsuccessful Hungarian uprising. He spent a year at New York University, where he joined Students for a Democratic Society, and traveled to Cuba to pick cotton with the Venceremos Brigade, which took middle-class Americans to help support the Cuban regime. When he returned to the United States in 1971, Kalman did window displays for the Student Book Exchange at nyu, which was owned by Leonard Riggio, who later bought Barnes & Noble and made Kalman its first creative director. Kalman designed the bookstore's first shopping bag, featuring an antique woodcut of a scribe. The design was still in use decades later. In 1979 Kalman was hired as the creative director of the discount department store E.J. Korvettes ("Eight Jewish Korean War Veterans"). Unhappy, he established M&Co in his Greenwich Village apartment in 1980. The enigmatic name was typical of Kalman's wit: it gave an aura of mystery and confused his more traditional clientele, who wanted to know what the M stood for. His wife, Maira *Kalman, then a children's book author and illustrator, had the nickname M. Kalman's transformation into a progressive design impresario came when M&Co designed an album for the rock group Talking Heads that featured four digitally manipulated photographs of the group's members and a title with upside-down letters. From that point on, the firm received attention in the design trade press for pushing beyond the conventions of design and typography. A number of cutting-edge designs produced by M&Co were sold at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for years. Kalman moved on to editing and being the creative director for the magazines Art Forum and Interview. He made a splash as editor in chief of Colors, the Italian and English magazine published by the Italian clothing company Benetton, an assignment that forced him to move his family to Rome. Colors focused on sociocultural issues like racism, aids, and sports. An issue devoted to racism had a featured titled "How to Change Your Race" and examined cosmetic means of altering hair, features, and skin color. Another feature was a collection of manipulated photographs showing famous people racially transformed. Kalman returned to New York in 1997 to battle cancer. In the last months of his life, Kalman designed the exhibition Tiborocity, which consisted of "neighborhoods" representing different aspects of his work as well as the protest posters and graphics that influenced him in the 1960s and 1970s. He told friends he intended the retrospective, which was shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to be his last testament.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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