A New Meaning to “Happy Hour”

For those who may not know, Stefan Sagmeister is a renowned graphic artist whose works range from album covers for the Rolling Stones to retrospectives in New York museums.  The Austrian born artist has described his latest work as a show of intersections.  He feels happiness results from connections among our relationships, philosophy, religion, economics, and psychology.  Sagmeister claims to be bored by definitions, but happiness is so large a topic that he was tempted to give it a try.  In other words, happiness is too vast a concept to be successfully pinned down.  The show to him is a definition of the word.

Currently being held at the Institute of Contemporary Art on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, located in University City, Stefan Sagmeister’s “Happy Show” is his attempt to do what can’t really be done.  Using graphic arts, he attempts to outline happiness.  Through the medium, he explores the mysteries of human personalities.  He reaches the wry conclusion that happiness can only be achieved through cognitive therapy, meditation, or by using whatever preferred mood altering chemicals are available.

“The Happy Show” encompasses the entire second floor at the Institute of Contemporary Art.  The artist worked for a decade considering the concept of happiness and how to make it into a visual display.  The exhibition features films, photography, sculpture, and numerous other art forms.  Sagmeister explores the concepts of psychologists such as Stephen Pinker and Daniel Gilbert.  The work of anthropologist Donald Symons is actively examined.  The question is asked whether the mind can be trained in similar fashion as the body.

The exhibition can be viewed now through August 12.  Enjoy the work and hopefully find happiness doing so.  As there are numerous striking images in the show that can at times be unsettling, the work is certainly unusual and captivating.  Sagmeister is an artist who is open to the interpretations of others.  He makes a point of allowing for other views.  Check it out to see if you agree with his notions of what makes us happy.

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