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Seattle-Istanbul Poster Show at Boise State Aims to Bridge Cultural Divides



A pair of posters hang side by side at the Boise State University Visual Arts Center. One, a concert poster by Seattle, Washington-based artist Matt Empson, features an illustration of the head and hands of rapper Tyler, the Creator surrounded by line drawings of random items (a skateboard, a stack of money, a donut, a microphone, etc.).  The other, a poster by Turkish artists Ahmet Erdem Senturk, for a ceramic workshop, shows a pair of hands—positioned much like those in Empson's poster—surrounded by line drawings of shapes and patterns. 

The posters are part of the The Seattle-Istanbul Poster Show exhibit, which features 90 posters by 60 artists from around the Northwest and Istanbul, Turkey. Co-curated by Daniel Smith of Seattle and Ardan Erguven of Istanbul, the show highlights the similarities between the Turkish and American posters through design elements.

“The visuals are of course a huge component,” Smith said. “There are pairings that work just beautifully because of a similar style or a similar color palette, but where it gets much more interesting for me, is where the content sort of relates to each other as well, so it’s not just form, but content.” Smith has also curated shows in which works by Seattle artists are paired with works by artists from Cuba, Russian and Tehran.

The Seattle-Istanbul Poster Show premiered in Istanbul in 2016, but its stop at the Visual Arts Center is the first time it has been shown in the United States. After hearing about the exhibit from local artist Julia Green (one of the artists in the show), Gallery Director Kirsten Furlong approached Smith in early 2017 about bringing the exhibit to Boise.

This poster by Istanbul artist Zeynep Kis shares subject matter but not style with its companion piece (pictured above) by artists Erin Cunningham and Julia Green.   - ZEYNEP KIS
  • Zeynep Kis
  • This poster by Istanbul artist Zeynep Kis shares subject matter but not style with its companion piece (pictured above) by artists Erin Cunningham and Julia Green.
“Things sort of started falling into place and by the time I was gonna show it here, I thought it would be overlapping at the end of the show with Treefort [Music Fest], and there can be some sort of partnership with them, so it just kind of worked out,” Furlong said.

Smith and Erguven will be at the gallery on Thursday, March 22, to talk about the exhibit, and they will be part of a panel on Friday, March 23 at The Owyhee that will also include Green and local artist James W.A.R. Lloyd.

“We’re working with Treefort to have two musicians that will be here for the festival included on the panel,” said Furlong. “The panel is really going to be about the relationship between artists and musicians and the way they work together.”

Smith hopes people come away from the show with a feeling of connection to a culture that seems different from their own.

“I think, for one, the goal of all of these shows has been to demonstrate how similar our thinking is to countries that seem very foreign to people,” said Smith. “It’s about drawing those real human connections between where we are and ... Havana or Tehran or Istanbul, and hopefully sparking interest in these people and this place and humanizing people who are maybe on the other side of this political divide.”

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