Shigeo Fukuda was an influential, critically acclaimed 20th-century Japanese sculptor, graphic designer and poster designer, who specialized in efficacious optical illusions, also known for his acerbic and revolutionary anti-war and political art. His artworks tend to display illusions and deception. One example of this is his Lunch With a Helmet On, a sculpture made entirely of cutlery that casts a shadow of a motorcycle. Another example is the poster he created for Amnesty International, and which featured a clenched fist interwoven with barbed wire, with the letter “S” and the word “Amnesty” at the top of the poster, portraying Fukuda is not merely an exceptionally talented artist, but also a political activist with a distinct agenda and a fervid passion for human rights.
Around the 1960s, Fukuda developed a high interest in illusionism, and he thus was appointed the person in charge of a bi-monthly magazine featuring entertaining issues on illusions. On the other side of the globe, however, the renowned American Magazine The New York Times described his posters as vehemently compelling yet simple, distilled from convoluted concepts.
Fukuda’s idiosyncrasy was his expertise at communicating exhaustive artistic, social and political messages using minimal graphic means. Despite his use, influence, and inspiration taken from Japanese art and woodblock traditions, Fukuda’s style was universal and thus uniting, bridging cultural divides between individuals, and getting appreciation among his artistic counterparts around the world.
Fukuda also used the element of humor in his posters, displaying a message of easiness and irony while tackling difficult historical events in Japan and all over the world. A master of artistic deception, even his own home exemplified the art of illusion – American designer Seymour Chwast and a dear friend of Fukuda recall the entrance to Fukuda’s house, on the outskirts of Tokyo, where visitors had to walk down a path in order to reach a door that appeared to be far away, but the space was constructed so as to create an optical illusion, as the door was merely four feet high.
Inside, Fukuda would emerge from a concealed white door that was exactly the same color as the wall, and would thus create the illusion of invisibility. Fukuda would then offer his visitors a pair of red house slippers.