< Home


In 1929, when my father was only eight, he left Poland with his family to emigrate to America, settling in Brooklyn.  He was soon recognized as a gifted artist and at the age of ten, was introduced to the eminent art instructor and a founder of art therapy, Florence Cane, who invited him to study at the school she founded, the Florence Cane School of Art located in Rockefeller Center. His teachers included the master artists from Mexico, Emilio Amero and Jean Charlot.  Ms. Cane became everything to my father – his art teacher, a mother figure, and a mentor.  She invited him to paint in her studio in the East Village and wrote a chapter about him in her book, The Artist in Each of Us, published in 1951. Through his teens, he attended the High School of Music and Art, studied at Pratt Institute, and attended art classes given by the WPA.  While he would have loved to be a fine artist as his career, he felt it would have been too difficult to make a living at it, so he decided to be a commercial artist.  He worked as a staff artist at the celebrated newspaper, PM, and for advertising agencies in New York.  He served in the army as an artist for Air Force magazine, and in 1942, one of his war posters was selected for an exhibition that was shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art.  

Following the war, he moved to Los Angeles and attended Art Center College of Design.  After graduating, he established himself in LA as a graphic designer.  A pioneer of the now recognized California Design movement, he founded the Society of Contemporary Designers and, in 1950, organized the first exhibition of design on the West Coast at the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.  He began teaching design at UCLA in 1954 and later taught at Art Center, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Los Angeles, and at Manchester College of Art and Design in England.  Hie won many awards for his design and his work was included in leading design publications, including Graphis and Art Direction magazines. A brochure he designed is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

A  friend of my mother was Jean Levy, who was married to the renowned art dealer, Julian Levy.  In 1965, my parents were visiting Paris and, through an introduction from the Levy’s, they were introduced to Man Ray and his wife Juliet. In my father’s words, he and Man Ray “hit it off” and became friends. Greater than any other influence, my father attributed his return to his roots in fine art to that connection with Man Ray.  They met again in 1966 with Man Ray had an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Around that time, my father began a series of ‘hard edge’ paintings.

My father always loved working with wood and he transformed our home in Laurel Canyon into a beautiful example of modern architecture that included furniture that he designed and built.  My mother, Rose Farber, was also active as a graphic designer and her influence on the design of our home was great as well.  My sister, Joan Farber, became an illustrator and I became a photographer. We lived there until my parents separated in 1977.  

After moving to Sherman Oaks, my father continued working as a graphic and architectural designer.  By 1987, he had saved enough money to close his design studio and for the next 23 years, he worked full time as a sculptor without concern for selling his work.  At the same time, he attended life drawing classes at Barnsdall Art Center and built up a substantial body of pastel paintings, however, his real passion was his sculpture.  His first pieces were made of solid wood, but since he wanted to make large-scale pieces, he developed a technique of gluing pieces of plywood together and shaping them with power tools.  As the layers of plywood were shaped, rings would be formed that made elegant patterns, which he perfected by hand painting the rings where needed. There is a sense of humor that runs through much of his work as he enjoyed coming up with concepts for pieces, giving them a title, making drawings and models, and then creating the pieces.  

Another aspect of his life was his many years of volunteer service as a peer counselor and group leader serving the elderly through emotional crises. Hie felt that his sculpture of heads expressing various psychological states was influenced by his counseling work. A mild stroke in 2010 at the age of 89,forced him to stop sculpting, but he continued counseling at the One Generation Center in Reseda, California. He was honored for his years of volunteer service with a special award from the Country of Los Angeles. We happily celebrated his 90th birthday together on December 23, but he wasn’t to live long after that.  He passed away on February 7, 2012. His significant other, Mary Fagin, passed away in 2013.  He is survived by his two children, and three grandchildren.  He will be deeply missed by those who knew him, but he leaves a remarkable legacy of design and fine art that will live on to inspire future generations.

Don Farber

Update, October, 2020: The Getty Research Institute has acquired the collection of my father's designs, photography and video documenting his life and work as a designer and fine artist, writings about his work, his own writings, and many other documents, which will be available to view by researchers in perpetuity.

Update, October, 2019: The Untold Story of Los Angeles Designer Hy Farber, Un Framed, Los Angeles County Museum of Art   

Update, September, 2017: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Department of Decorative Arts and Design, acquired seventy-three of my father’s designs (including posters, brochures, and letterheads) for it’s permanent collection. Included are posters and other designs illustrated by my late mother, Rose Farber.