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Folon created art that was popular in France and in the United States from the 1960's to the present, on posters, in books and magazines and in various advertising campaigns.
His most widely seen piece was the 1989 logo for the bicentennial of the French revolution: three soaring birds. Birds, butterfly people and soaring winged men were among his recurring symbols, which he rendered in a precisionist yet beguilingly ironic childlike manner.
Folon was fond of making grand statements in intimate, compact spaces. Even his large posters, collected in the 1978 "Posters by Folon," started as small drawings and prints. His work was defined by contrasts. His pen line was simple, bordering on naïve, and his luminous watercolor palette was intentionally optimistic, but his subject matter was often downbeat, criticizing what he believed was relentless urban conformity and the loneliness it caused.
Folon began as an architectural draftsman, and many of his drawings feature wall after wall of impenetrable skyscraper facades marked with obsessive rows of broken lines that evoke prisons. Another frequent metaphor was directional arrows explosively springing from humanlike figures and other forms, shooting in many directions.
"Arrows," he once said, "are the symbols of confusion of an entire era. What would happen if, one night, someone were to remove all the traffic signs from the face of the earth?"
Folon was best known for his forlorn though oddly endearing Everyman figure, always alone in an urban landscape, dressed in blue or gray, with brimmed hat and raincoat that conceals a large lumbering body.
"Modest, vulnerable, and sometimes confused, he is not a comic figure," wrote William S. Lieberman, in the catalog "Folon's Folons," for his 1990 solo exhibition of the same name at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "He is a city dweller, Folon suggests, perhaps an office clerk. He carries either an attaché case or a newspaper. No athlete, he can, however, fly."