CUBAN POSTERS in Spain

Art On Cuba - - Index - Moraima Clavijo Colon

In June of this year, the MuVIM (Va­len­cia Mu­seum of En­light­en­ment and Moder­nity) in­au­gu­rated an ex­hi­bi­tion of Cuban posters pro­duced be­tween 1959 and 1989, many of which re­ceived in­ter­na­tional awards in the fi­nal decades of the 20th cen­tury, and are cur­rently the fo­cus of mul­ti­ple ex­hi­bi­tions in dif­fer­ent Euro­pean ci­ties.

The posters dis­played were pro­duced by the lead­ing cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions cre­ated fol­low­ing the tri­umph of the Revo­lu­tion in 1959, namely the Cuban In­sti­tute of Cine­mato­graphic Art and In­dus­try (ICAIC), founded in March 1959, followed by the Casa de las Améri­cas and later, the Na­tional Coun­cil for Cul­ture (CNC). These in­sti­tu­tions were re­spon­si­ble for the ex­pan­sion of the coun­try’s cul­tural hori­zons. From that mo­ment on, along­side per­for­mances of em­blem­atic works of world theater, cult, Euro­pean and North Amer­i­can films be­gan to be screened, and re­lated na­tional and in­ter­na­tional events mul­ti­plied. They were pub­li­cized through posters, a medium that had not pre­vi­ously seen par­tic­u­lar de­vel­op­ment on the is­land, and that over time would stand as the graphic tes­ti­mony of the cul­tural in­ten­sity that de­fined this his­toric pe­riod.

At the same time, po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­ganda was served through this medium, and it must be said that in the be­gin­nings, as an art of in­ci­ta­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion, the ex­pres­sions were in­debted to canons close to so­cial­ist re­al­ism. How­ever, very soon these ex­pres­sions be­came more cre­ative, as an artis­tic sec­tion was cre­ated within the De­part­ment of Revo­lu­tion­ary Ori­en­ta­tion, to which cer­tain de­sign­ers from the cul­tural world were at­tracted. They pro­vided po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns with a new hall­mark, through the use of images of greater visual di­ver­sity. Proof of this is the work by fig­ures such as Rafael Mo­rante, Olivio Martínez,

Félix Bel­trán and Al­fredo Rostgaard, who at the time cre­ated paradig­matic pieces.

ICAIC, mean­while, brought to­gether painters hith­erto un­re­lated to graphic de­sign who, to­gether with for­mer ad­ver­tis­ing agents, formed a team with the new fig­ures that emerged in the six­ties, and took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pub­li­ciz­ing of the hun­dreds of for­eign films screened through­out the coun­try, as well as na­tional film pro­duc­tion which, to­gether with the Noticiero

ICAIC Latinoamericano, gave Cuban cin­ema the hall­marks that dis­tin­guished it for decades.

As could be ap­pre­ci­ated in the ex­hib­ited works, graphic ex­pres­sion linked to cin­e­matog­ra­phy en­joyed an ex­traor­di­nary orig­i­nal­ity, di­ver­sity and, at the same time, con­stancy, dur­ing the decades of the six­ties and sev­en­ties. The posters were char­ac­ter­ized by a style that ranged from an econ­omy of means that to­day we would call min­i­mal­ist, to the fig­u­ra­tive ex­pres­sion of Pop or the op­ti­cal il­lu­sion of Ki­netic art. Mostly screen printed, with an al­most uni­form for­mat, their size fa­vored the place­ment, within the ur­ban fab­ric, of metal posts with four pan­els, al­low­ing for the si­mul­ta­ne­ous dis­play of eight posters. These posts, which the pub­lic pop­u­larly re­ferred to as “som­bril­li­tas” (para­sols), played an im­por­tant in­for­ma­tive role, lit­er­ally tak­ing the films to the streets.

The ex­hi­bi­tion re­veals, once again, that the var­ied ap­proaches of the nu­mer­ous Cuban de­sign­ers work­ing dur­ing this pe­riod can be ap­pre­ci­ated through film posters, as well as the stylis­tic di­ver­sity of their re­spec­tive ca­reer paths. Among oth­ers, Lucci’s poster for Mi tio was in­cluded, in which the sub­tle hu­mor of Jacques Tati was re­flected through a huge body mov­ing on tip­toe, and seem­ingly naïve ges­tures; as well as that of painter René Por­to­car­rero, who il­lus­trated Soy Cuba with the same Baroque style of his pic­to­rial work; like­wise Harakiri, from those same years, a master piece that earned its au­thor, An­to­nio Fernán­dez

Re­boiro, in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, and in which the syl­la­bles of the word are as strik­ing as the al­lu­sion to blood em­pha­sized by the ris­ing sun.

An­other artist present in the ex­hi­bi­tion was René Azcuy, with sev­eral im­por­tant pieces, among oth­ers that re­lat­ing to the film

La niña de luto, re­call­ing Franco’s Spain, and that in which he al­ludes to the poignant sen­su­al­ity of the beau­ti­ful Mar­i­lyn Monroe.

Of course, the work of the ex­cep­tional Rostgaard could not be over­looked, who be­queathed images that marked mile­stones, like the poster with which the event held at the Casa de las Améri­cas on Can­ción Protesta was ad­ver­tised, or that of the doc­u­men­tary Hanoi martes 13.

No less in­ter­est­ing was the poster by Raúl Martínez for the film Lucía, in which he al­tered his ten­dency, us­ing flat, bright colors and re­peat­ing faces in the style of Warhol.

Other artists present at the ex­hi­bi­tion were Ed­uardo Muñoz Bachs and An­to­nio Pérez (Ñiko), both with mem­o­rable movie posters, as well as some for­eign painters in­vited to il­lus­trate posters for cer­tain films, such as the Spa­niard An­to­nio Saura, who was re­spon­si­ble for Mem­o­ries of Un­derde­vel­op­ment.

In­deed, the cul­tural scene of those years was in­tense, as can cer­tainly be ver­i­fied in the set of works pre­sented in this im­por­tant Span­ish mu­seum; some in­tended to pub­li­cize the­atri­cal works, oth­ers artis­tic ex­hi­bi­tions, fes­ti­vals, or those linked to events or­ga­nized by the then Na­tional Coun­cil for Cul­ture or the Na­tional Union of Writ­ers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). Among them it is worth high­light­ing the names of artists such as Um­berto Peña, José Villa (Vil­lita) and Héctor Villaverde, as well as those who formed part of the Plaza de la Cat­e­dral Taller de Grá­fica (Graphic Arts Work­shop), such as César Leal, Roger Aguilar, Rafael Zarza, José Luis Posada, César Mazola and José Con­tino, all faith­ful lovers of lithog­ra­phy. Among those form­ing this group, the fig­ure of José Gómez Fresquet (Fremez) cer­tainly stood out.

Due to space lim­i­ta­tions, it was not pos­si­ble to cover the work of all the artists who played a lead­ing role in the de­vel­op­ment of Cuban posters dur­ing the three decades cov­ered by this ex­hi­bi­tion. How­ever, the se­lec­tion vouched for the ex­traor­di­nary de­vel­op­ment that the Cuban poster achieved in those years, and the works ex­hib­ited are an ex­am­ple of their sig­nif­i­cance as ex­cep­tional tes­ti­monies of the era they il­lus­trated. Works which are all present in the Cuban col­lec­tion of the Museo Na­cional de Bel­las Artes. ƒ

… the var­ied ap­proaches of the nu­mer­ous Cuban de­sign­ers work­ing dur­ing this pe­riod can be ap­pre­ci­ated through film posters, as well as the stylis­tic di­ver­sity of their re­spec­tive ca­reer paths.

RAÚL MARTÍNEZ Lucía, 1968

Silk screen

20 x 30 inches

JOSE GOMEZ FRESQUET (FREMEZ)

Fes­ti­val de la Can­ción pop­u­lar, Va­radero, Cuba, 1967, Silk screen / 23½ x 16 inches

Col­lec­tion of MNBA

EUFEMIA AL­VAREZ Revés en Vic­to­ria, 1970. Silk screen / 44 x 30 inches Col­lec­tion of MNBA

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