obsession and fantasy poster 1963


proper obs

Obsession and Fantasy
Robert Fraser Gallery Poster
London 1963

In Bj’s ‘Sex and Typography’ article for Typographica in 1964 he said: ‘I cannot recall ever having seen an article on Sex and Typography! For some reason (probably clear to a psychiatrist) four design projects in which I have recently been involved have all had a strong emphasis on sex in the form of the female anatomy. It started with a series of advertisements for nylon stockings, using photographs of a girl’s legs, closely cropped almost to the point of abstraction. The typographic element was simple and articulated. But the ‘Obsession and Fantasy’ poster I later designed for a group exhibition of ‘Pop’ artists at a London gallery achieved a much closer integration of sex, typography and meaning. I think I must myself have become rather obsessed with that particular solution because when, a few months later, I was asked to design the titles for the James Bond film From Russia with Love I extended the idea.’

The design of the ‘Obsession and Fantasy’ poster is simple. Split in two, the upper half is devoted to an image of a woman’s naked breasts. Photographed straight on, with her arms visible at either side, she reveals the word ‘obsession’ written directly on her skin. The letters are positioned on her body so that her nipples stand in for the ‘O’s. 

The belief that words carry emotional as well as intellectual connotations was central to BJ’s approach to advertising typography. The ‘Obsession and Fantasy’ poster is a perfect encapsulation of an experience Moholy-Nagy described as ‘simultaneity’, in other words seeing and reading both at once.’

The exhibition advertised by the poster was held at Robert Fraser’s gallery on Duke Street in London during the summer of 1963. It was a group show of ten male artists, including Francis Bacon, Hans Bellmer, Jean Dubuffet and Alberto Giacometti. Although BJ described it as an exhibition of ‘Pop’ artists, the list of participants suggests that its emphasis veered towards the surreal. The poster is certainly more akin to surrealism than pop.

Since its design in 1963, the poster has had an afterlife as a cult piece of print and still has the power to shock.