Walter Dexel
German, 1890 - 1973
Dexel Jena, publisher (Germany)
Verwende stets nur Gas (Always use only gas for cooking), 1924

image:   H. 20 1/4 x W. 26 1/2 in.
sheet:   H. 27 1/4 x W. 33 in.

After studying art in Munich, Walter Dexel soon devoted himself to commercial art and typography, designing advertisements and posters and developing lighted advertising for billboards. He collaborated closely with the Bauhaus (1919–1925), especially with Theo van Doesburg (1921–1923). In 1927, he organized the first exhibition of commercial art: New Advertising. Dexel began his career organizing exhibitions for Jena’s Art Union and during those years arranged many shows for the artists of Die Brücke, Der Blaue Reiter, Der Sturm, and the neighboring Bauhaus. As a Constructivist painter, Dexel exhibited in Der Sturm in 1918, 1920, and 1925. He also took part in the international exhibitions in Moscow and Paris. He taught at Magdeburg (1928–1935) and at the Berlin-Schöneberg National School of Art (1936–1942).

This poster was a promotional piece urging consumers to use gas in the home. Full text of the poster reads: "Always use only gas for cooking, baking, heating, and lighting because it is practical, clean, and cheap. Saves work, time, and money. Information and exhibition in Municipal Gas Works." Black, yellow, and red, tough no-nonsense colors, are used with blocks of type—all in caps—which float in various alignments, but all are subservient to the powerful exclamation point. The word GAS is effectively emphasized, a shorthand message in letterform. As with the other artists identified with the Bauhaus, particularly Herbert Bayer and Joost Schmidt, asymmetry is used fluently, and the lettering is dynamically composed, taking on a function previously filled by images.

The exclamation point became a familiar graphic device used by the Futurists, Dadaists, De Stijl artists (to a lesser degree), and the Russian Constructivists (for whom it was a powerful means of asserting the message). Normally the dot and extender are never joined. By the eighteenth century, the exclamation point became a generally accepted and consistently used punctuation mark. The initial configuration (referred to as a "bang" or a "screamer" by vintage printers), which is also descended from a logotype for the Latin word io (joy), was a capital "I" set over a lowercase "o." Gradually, as with the question mark, the design of the exclamation point was reduced to its present form.