City Tech’s Joel Mason Documents ‘Signs of the Times’ in Solo Photography Show

Brooklyn, NY — March 28, 2005 — Twenty-five years of photographic experimentation by New York City College of Technology’s (City Tech) Joel Mason will be on view in his first solo show, “Signs & Space,” from April 3 through April 28, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the College’s Grace Gallery, 300 Jay Street, 11th floor, in Downtown Brooklyn. There will be a reception on Thursday, April 6, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., to which the general public is invited.

Longtime chair of City Tech’s Department of Advertising Design & Graphic Arts (ADGA), he will be exhibiting 42 color prints with such deceptively simple titles as “Ever Ready” “Stone Space,” “Evening in Blue,” “Three Circles” and “On The Road.”

According to Mason, the prints embody his fascination with “abstract two-dimensional compositions of color and surface,” the “sometimes ambiguous nature of space” and “signs which have been transformed by the effects of time, weather, neglect and circumstance.” The show was made possible by a Professional Staff Congress/City University of New York grant.

An artist and graphic designer with a strong interest in typography, Mason obtained his BFA from Cooper Union and earned his MFA at Hunter College. He went on to work as a graphic designer for what was then called the New York City Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs department. “I originally became involved with signs when I worked there,” he explains. “We designed outdoor signs and sign systems for the parks, zoos and historic districts.”

Subsequently, Mason worked in a design studio on campaigns for clients that included local politicians, Citibank, Better Homes & Gardens, the New York State Department of Law, the New York State Urban Development Corporation and Battery Park City.

During travels in Europe and the U.S., Mason began documenting environmental graphics and signs; he saw the signs as “painterly” and sought to express their “unexpected formal qualities as surfaces and letterforms slowly oxidize, fade or undergo other changes.”

Mason first came to City Tech as an adjunct in 1977 and joined the faculty as a full-time instructor two years later. In 1988, he became chairman of the ADGA department, and has taught typography, graphic design, portfolio and internship classes.

A roving eye for design and composition led Mason to collect books (on design, photography, typography, maps, nature, geology, science), paper ephemera (post cards, labels, bags, prints), and other stuff. “I have a growing, somewhat eccentric pile of lost junk jewelry, medallions, pins, earrings, odd pieces of metal, etc., he says.”

His collecting began when a poster that he designed was included in the book, Images of an Era: The American Poster 1945-1975, published in conjunction with a traveling exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution as part of the 1976 bi-centennial celebrations. The poster, “Moon Site,” resulted from an idea he proposed while working as a graphic designer for the New York City Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs department to erect giant video screens in the Central Park Sheep Meadow the night of the first moon landing in 1969.

Mason has penned two articles for Connections, a former City Tech constituent magazine, on collecting: “Discover the World of Book Collecting” (Spring 2003) and “Discovering New York’s World of Posters” (Spring 2001). He also had “Typographic,” a photo essay, published in Grand Street magazine and has shown his work often in group shows at City Tech. In addition, he participated in Hunter College’s 1991 computer graphics group show, “Macro-Micro,” and had a poster commemorating Brooklyn Borough Hall’s renovation displayed in an outdoor exhibition in front of the building.

For more information, call Prof. Mason at 718.260.5175.

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York is a recognized national model for urban technological education and a pioneer in integrating technology into the teaching/learning experience. The largest public college of technology in New York State, City Tech enrolls more than 12,000 students in 57 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs in the technologies of art and design, business, computer systems, engineering, entertainment, health care, hospitality, human services, the law-related professions, career and technology teacher education, and the liberal arts and sciences. Another 14,300 students enroll annually in adult education and workforce development programs, many of which lead to licensure and certification. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, City Tech is at the MetroTech Center academic and commercial complex, convenient to public transportation.

For more information, contact Michele Forsten (718.260.5979) or Dale Tarnowieski (718.260.5109) or e-mail