ARTBOOK LOGO

ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 6/18/2021

Bureau of General Services—Queer Division presents 'LIFELINES: Art, Intimacy and HIV—an Intergenerational Conversation'

DATE 6/15/2021

'Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists' is Back in Stock!

DATE 6/13/2021

The little-known photographs of Barkley L. Hendricks

DATE 6/12/2021

Join Kristin Bedford and the Los Angeles Lowrider Community for the release of 'Cruise Night'

DATE 6/12/2021

Gay Pride Gold in 'Tom of Finland: Made in Germany'

DATE 6/10/2021

Monochrome chic in 'Alex Katz: Beauty'

DATE 6/8/2021

'David Hockney: Drawing from Life' is a Staff Pick for Pride Month 2021

DATE 6/6/2021

From hair lacquer to whiskey and sweat in 2021 Pride Month Staff Pick, Karlheinz Weinberger, 'Together & Alone'

DATE 6/3/2021

Electrifying 'Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You' is a New Release this week!

DATE 6/1/2021

A book like no other. We are thrilled to announce 'An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts'

DATE 6/1/2021

Get Ready for LGBTQ+ Pride, 2021!

DATE 5/26/2021

A glimmer of hope in new release, 'Rashid Johnson: The Hikers'

DATE 5/24/2021

On the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, a compendium of writings by and about Black American artists, 1960–1980

DATE 5/20/2021

In 'Fabric of a Nation,' quilts "unlike any other in the world"

DATE 5/20/2021

Alice Mackler does what she wants to do

DATE 5/18/2021

Highly Anticipated ‘Soul of a Nation Reader’ is a New Release this week!

DATE 5/16/2021

Super-hot Kara Walker works on paper survey 'A Black Hole Is Everything a Star Longs to Be' is Back in Stock!

DATE 5/14/2021

A timely meditation on voting rights in Jeanine Michna-Bales' 'Standing Together'

DATE 5/13/2021

Alice Mackler Book Launch and Signing at Kerry Schuss Gallery

DATE 5/12/2021

Essential reading: Arthur Jafa’s ‘MAGNUMB’ is a new release this week

DATE 5/10/2021

'Shepard Fairey: 3 Decades of Dissent' is a New Release this week!

DATE 5/9/2021

Definitely our pick for Mothers Day 2021

DATE 5/8/2021

Groundbreaking Brazilian amateur Modernist photography show ‘Fotoclubismo’ opens at MoMA

DATE 5/6/2021

Hot Book Alert! 'A Bestiary of the Anthropocene' is a New Release this week!

DATE 5/5/2021

We're celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Phyllis Galembo's classic 'Mexico Masks Rituals'

DATE 5/1/2021

Summertime Staff Picks, 2021

DATE 4/29/2021

Did we mention how much we love 'Joel Meyerowitz: Wild Flowers'?

DATE 4/28/2021

BACK IN STOCK! The expanded 'Gerhard Richter: Panorama'

DATE 4/27/2021

Perfume-lovers, rejoice! ‘The Handbook of Great Italian Perfumery’ is a new release this week!

DATE 4/26/2021

Commemorating the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, 35 Years Later

DATE 4/25/2021

Intimate, imaginary and emotionally charged spaces in 'Shara Hughes: Landscapes'

DATE 4/23/2021

Pedagogical goldmine 'Wicked Arts Assignments' is back in stock!

DATE 4/22/2021

Celebrate Earth Day in the Anthropocene with 'Connectedness'

DATE 4/20/2021

A vivid discussion between Sarah Sze, Anselm Kiefer and Emanuele Coccia on the occasion of 'Night into Day' at Fondation Cartier

DATE 4/20/2021

A reflection on what it meant, and means, to be 'Black in White America'

DATE 4/19/2021

A remarkable new artist's book from Michael Stipe

DATE 4/17/2021

'Tauba Auerbach — S v Z' is a book to be reckoned with, slowly, with an open mind

DATE 4/16/2021

Remembering Merce Cunningham, born OTD 1919

DATE 4/15/2021

Fondation Cartier presents Sarah Sze in conversation with Anselm Kiefer and Emanuele Coccia for the launch of 'Night into Day'

DATE 4/14/2021

Frank Stella's Stars: A Survey is a New Release

DATE 4/13/2021

Martin Parr in conversation with Joel Meyerowitz, whose new, expanded edition of 'Wild Flowers,' is out now from Damiani

DATE 4/11/2021

In Yayoi Kusama's Little Mermaid, a "symbol of all good hearts and of love"

DATE 4/8/2021

Jeremy Sigler's 'Goodbye Letter' is a Staff Pick for National Poetry Month

DATE 4/6/2021

Celebrate National Poetry Month with a new facsimile edition of N.H. Pritchard's 'EECCHHOOEESS'

DATE 4/4/2021

Titian's celebration of Easter, from 'The Christian Year in Painting'

DATE 4/3/2021

In Siglio's Madeline Gins Reader, the plot thickens and thickens, line by line, item by item

DATE 4/2/2021

Celebrate National Poetry Month with N.H. Pritchard's 'The Matrix'

DATE 3/31/2021

Hot Book Alert: 'Media Burn: Ant Farm and the Making of an Image' is Back in Stock!

DATE 3/30/2021

Thinking of Vincent Van Gogh, born OTD, 1853

DATE 3/29/2021

Surprising 'Lisa Yuskavage: Wilderness' is on view at Baltimore Museum of Art

DATE 3/28/2021

'Georgia O'Keeffe: Watercolors' is a Staff Pick for Women's History Month


EXCERPTS & ESSAYS

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 9/7/2011

Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution

ARTBOOK | D.A.P. is pleased to announce Soy Cuba, Trilce's outstanding collection of post-revolutionary Cuban cinema posters, spanning from the 1950s through the 1970s. Below is a selection of posters from the 1960s, alongside Steven Heller's Introduction, Recalling a Forgotten Treasure.

Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
Five Sinners, Czechoslovakia, 1965. Poster by Aldo Amador.

The posters in this book are so conceptually stunning it is hard to believe they are advertising films. Movie posters are typically mediocre and mired in clichéd imagery that unimaginative marketers believe will pique an audience’s interest. These Cuban film posters could never have been market tested or run through the typical approval wringer. If so, they would never look like this. Their very existence raises the question: Why indeed are posters produced for Hollywood USA generally so mundane, while posters promoting some of the same movies in Cuba so visually inventive? And perhaps a more perplexing question: Why have they been hidden away in the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry for so long?
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
I Am Cuba, Cuba and Soviet Union, 1964. Poster by René Portocarrero.

Cuban political posters produced by the Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa & Latin America (Ospaaal) have been widely exhibited and documented, but this extensive body of work has been kept virtually secret until Carole Goodman uncovered them. In the history of popular art, these posters are comparable to any major archeological find, and as momentous to the legacy of graphic design as the rediscovery in the 1970s of twenties-era Russian Constructivist film posters.
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
Beatrice, Poland, 1965. Poster by Eduardo Muñoz Bachs.

What makes them worthy of such status (and awe) is less that they transcend the marketing conventions of the motion picture industry— which demands star-studded imagery and bloated typography. Even more essential from a socio-historical point of view is that these posters, created after the Cuban revolution in 1959, exhibit a unique graphic language that has roots in then-contemporary Europe, but ultimately developed a distinct graphic accent, which could for now be called a “Revolutionary Cuban Style.” And what a free style it is.
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
Cyclone, Cuba, 1965. Poster by René Azcuy Cárdenas.

Like the Russian Constructivists of the twenties, and the Polish poster artists of the seventies, and even the French Atellier Populaire of 1968, this Cuban visual language expresses a youthful revolutionary zeal—not politically but aesthetically. In the Russian case, the avant garde was eventually betrayed by Soviet leaders and their demand for greater social conformity (which became Socialist Realism). This Cuban graphic style exudes a sense of individual freedom. Ironically, the freedom to produce carnivalesque movie posters in Cuba, when compared to the more rigidly proscribed poster clichés dictated by Hollywood USA, suggests that creative liberty and stylistic playfulness had more support under the real dictatorial regime rather than an iron fisted movie industry.
At first glance these gems of visual acuity and typographic expression do not follow the conventions of posters at all. The each look more like book covers and jackets. Almost each one (see “El Jueves,” “La Boda,” or “La Guerra Y La Paz”) could have major impact in a smaller format. Yet as posters they capture the eye in ways that are both demonstrative and distinctly contemplative.
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
The 44, Czechoslovakia, 1964. Poster by Holbeín López.

I can’t take my eyes off of “El Mar.” It is the most sublime graphic design I have ever seen—no hyperbole intended. The contrasts, first of the condensed sans serif type sandwiching the ornate bifurcated “m,” then this unit next to the seemingly arbitrary silhouette of an umbrella, is curiously hypnotic. Maybe it is also the repeating pattern of soothingly colorful half-circles that draws the eye. Whatever calculus of images makes the total composition so compelling, the combination of type and abstraction results not in just a mere commercial image, but in a piece of art—assertive art.
These posters run a conceptual and formal gamut, from decorative to symbolic, from comic to serious, from expressive to surreal. “Nos Amamos Tanto” embodies all these traits into one and yet it is such a minimalist work. Minimalism works. If there is one common conceit, surrealism appears to reign. Interestingly, surrealism was widely practiced in Iron Curtain graphics throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties. The surreal tropes enable the artist and designer to mask certain visual ideas that might offend the censor’s eye. The dislocation of reality also provides greater opportunities for pictorial adventures. In addition to surrealism, economy of space is the other thing almost all these posters have in common. Even an otherwise ornate rendering like “Tulipa” is set against an open green field, allowing the abstractly sensual bikini clad figure to seemingly dance across the page. And what could be more alluring in its economy than “Rita?” This tightly cropped high contrast black and white image, says so much about the texture of the film with so little graphic information. It would be impossible to do this in Hollywood USA (where are the stars’ credits?).
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
The Ugly Woman, Czechoslovakia, 1962. Poster by Eduardo Muñoz Bachs.

It is interesting to speculate on where and how the artists got their inspirations. “La Larga Noche del 43” is reminiscent of Saul Bass, the American graphic designer and film title pioneer who introduced expressionist minimalism to screen and poster. The delightfully sketched figure of “Beatriz” suggests the American book jacket designer Roy Kuhlman, and the symbolic “Todos Son Inocentes” has a George Guisti look—he too was known for his book jackets. As students in art school, these designers may have seen the New York Art Director’s Club or Society of Illustrators annuals. Probably, they received the Swiss Graphis magazine, which made a relentless effort to publish Eastern European/ Iron Curtain design, and essentially introduced the West to this work and vice versa.
Yet maybe the inspiration—and style—just came naturally and instinctively. The posters are so different, not just compared to Hollywood USA posters, but from Polish film and theater posters, which were at their creative peak during the sixties and seventies, that it is difficult to trace a direct link. There is no clear line between these posters and other designs in Latin or South America.
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
A Woman Leaves, Hungary, 1964. Poster by Raymundo García Parra.

The pre-revolutionary graphic design, much of it borrowed from America and Europe, notably the Art Deco conceits that prevailed in advertisements and magazine illustration, appear to have been rejected by the film poster designers. Cuban commercial art from the twenties through to the fifties was usually quite mannered, which is not to say rigid—it was often playful with a Caribbean spirit—but these film posters avoid excessive mannerisms in favor of definite modernist art roots. Take “A Pleno So,” “El Hombre Que Debia Morir,” “Alba de Cuba,” and “El Cielo Del Haltico,” all have painterly (or collage) roots. Many appear as though they could have been designed yesterday or today and even tomorrow. Without a conformist style, they have a timeless energy. “Pisito,” with its building windows made of white letters, could easily be in a graphic design annual today—and may turn up after a designer sees it in this book. And the typographically jarring “Desarraigo” is such a contemporary idea and execution, that it is destined for the pantheon of expressive lettering.
Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters from after the Revolution
Papa Dollar, Hungary, 1962. Poster by Eduardo Muñoz Bachs.

Design archeologists have long been uncovering various one-off lost items that fit nicely into the overall history. But rarely is such a treasure as this—a collection of material so decidedly unknown—been found intact. It is always easy to edit a critical mass of material into a solid body of work, but even allowing for some lesser works, the sheer quality of this quantity of posters is incredible. And what a model of excellence these posters are for all to see—maybe even someone in Hollywood USA. Maybe some day, they’ll catch up with Cuban film posters.

Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters From After the Revolution

Soy Cuba: Cuban Cinema Posters From After the Revolution

TRILCE EDICIONES
Pbk, 9.5 x 13.5 in. / 320 pgs / 272 color.




ARTBOOK LOGO
 
 

the art world's source for books on art & culture

  

CUSTOMER SERVICE
orders@artbook.com
212 627 1999
M-F 9-5 EST

TRADE ACCOUNTS

800 338 2665

CONTACT

JOBS + INTERNSHIPS

NEW YORK
Showroom by Appointment Only
75 Broad Street, Suite 630
New York NY 10004
Tel   212 627 1999

LOS ANGELES
Showroom by Appointment Only
818 S. Broadway, Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Tel. 323 969 8985

ARTBOOK LLC
D.A.P. | Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.


All site content Copyright C 2000-2017 by Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. and the respective publishers, authors, artists. For reproduction permissions, contact the copyright holders.

ARTBOOK AMPERSAT

The D.A.P. Catalog
www.artbook.com