Michigan State University masthead

Movies and Messages: The Movie Posters of Art Sims

Entry Hall
Feburary 16 - April 30, 2015

‚ÄúMovies and Messages: The Movie Posters of Art Sims‚ÄĚ features the work of graphic designer and Michigan State University Alumnus Art Sims. Sims attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, earning a scholarship to study art at Michigan State University from 1971-1975.

Image of Jungle Fever Poster

After graduation Sims went on to design record covers for Columbia Records in New York City, but found his niche in Los Angeles where he established his company, 11:24 Design Advertising, a company dedicated to promoting African-American art and culture. He has worked in various areas of design but has established a particular status in poster art for movies, with a long time and successful working relationship with Spike Lee.

Spike (Shelton Jackson) Lee has directed 19 feature films and a number of documentaries. Among his better known films are Jungle Fever (1991), Malcolm X (1992), and He Got Game (1998). Although varied in their subject matter and style, Lee’s films typically include strong elements exploring race relations. In designing the posters for many of Spike Lee’s films, Sims has created commercial artworks that distill the issues of racial intolerance and struggle that underpin Lee’s works.

Eight movie posters from films directed by Spike Lee are presented in the exhibit. Along with the posters are a number of design concepts, character sills and some of Sims sketches that show his design process.


The Movie Poster
The movie poster is perhaps the most front-facing and important element of a film's marketing campaign. From their beginning, the most basic purpose of the movie poster was to showcase a theatre's program of short films to potential patrons on the street. As films and their posters co-evolved, poster illustrations sought to capture an element of the film's promise--be it suspense, terror, drama, or romance--and to showcase the brand of the film studio and its stars. What makes the poster so interesting is how economically it can visually communicate not just what a film is about, but what a film is--how it will feel, how it will make us feel. With a few spare elements a poster can almost perfectly sum up a film without explicitly revealing plot points or character descriptions. It can tease us, make us desire to see a film based on a simple illustration, photograph, or phrase. Posters are so collectible because they reveal hidden aspects of our tastes and expectations and how those have changed drastically over time. In a much different way than the films are themselves, posters can be a powerful window to the culture that created them.  -Courtesy of Film Studies Program, Department of English, Michigan State University 

Exhibit Reception and Gallery Tour with Art Sims
Saturday, March 14, 2-4 p.m.
Entry Hall, MSU Museum
In partnership with the MSU Black Alumni Association 

-->Listen to a gallery tour with Art Sims and WKAR Radio's Current State.