Otmar Alt, “Olympische Spiele München,” 1972

Student Rachel Herzig wrote about this poster, a gift of former art history faculty member Nancy Wilkinson, for ART 3683: History of Twentieth Century Art. When I talked to Nancy about the piece, she told me that she had bought it to decorate her son’s bedroom when he was a child. Rachel’s description of the piece emphasizes the energy and imagination of Alt’s deceptively childlike imagery.

Olympische Spiele München is an incredibly vibrant work created to raise awareness and support for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The artist, Otmar Alt, was born in Werningerode, Germany, in 1940 and attended the Berlin University of the Arts from 1960-66. He is known for his work in a variety of media, including printmaking, sculpture, toy design, illustration, and commercial design.

Otmar Alt, “Olympische Spiele München,” 1972. Screenprint, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection, gift of Nancy Wilkinson, 98-0029.

Otmar Alt, “Olympische Spiele München,” 1972. Screenprint, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection, gift of Nancy Wilkinson, 98-0029.

This poster is eye-catching, filled with playful imagery and movement. Alt is showing the power of large shapes and flat, eye-popping color. The shapes are created using elemental and gestural strokes that emphasize their playfulness and entice the viewer. In the main part of the poster, the shapes are characters, some resembling real animals and others imaginary beasts and biomorphic shapes. Other shapes are simplified versions of landscape elements, including childlike clouds and horizon line. Alt’s style is reminiscent of the interlocking pieces of a puzzle or the shapes in a stained-glass window.

Now matter how one looks at this silkscreen poster, imagination is a necessary and active tool in the viewing process. Many factors spark this effect: Alt’s childlike yet poetic line, his simple geometric shapes, the bright, flat colors, and his fantastical characters. Alt did not compose Olympische Spiele München to document a literal representation of an actual event, instead reflecting the playfulness and excitement of the Olympic Games.


About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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