Posters have been around in Cuba since the second half of the 19th century, but their fame dates back to the 1960s, a period of splendor of Cuban culture, although the so-called “golden age” of the Cuban poster has been established from 1965 to 1975.
It has been reported that there are more than 10,000 Cuban posters of that period. Selections of these posters have been exhibited on the Island and worldwide, and several books on the topic have been published, the most recent of which is Posters of the Revolution. Cuban posters from 1959 to 1989. The volume contains a wide selection of over 300 posters from the Damián Viñuela and Pepe Menéndez collections. Menéndez is also responsible for the book’s layout design, as well as for the succinctly essential Introduction, “Fourteen Questions (and Answers) about Cuban Posters.”
Buy why from 1959 to 1989? The text on the back cover explains it in a nutshell: “From the Revolution to the end of European socialism, three decades of an art that captivated the world.” The visual elegance of this book has been ensured by an “explosive mix” for beauty: Ediciones Polymita Publishers and Selvi Artes Gráficas Printers. Polymita has very well-defined goals: To make known the best of Cuban artistic and natural heritage, focusing on editorial details, which in this case range from curatorship and editing by the collectors themselves, guided by an essential requirement: the quality of the sample; the impeccable photographs by Julio Larramendi and Menéndez (the latter is the designer of a clear and rational layout that contributes to the rapid appropriation of contents); and the translations into English, French and German, seeking the best reception possible. The publishers have established an alliance with Selvi, a modern printing press that clearly refuses to “stain paper” and honors its name with a production that is based on true graphic art.
The book’s thematic diversity is surprising. The posters, which are printed in offset or silkscreen and feature different aesthetic codes, styles and form of artistic creation, can be divided into two main groups: Cuba in Revolution, and Cuban culture in all its manifestations.
Cuba in Revolution reflects and reinterprets the significant events of the time: mass rallies, history and its heroes, the economic battle of the sugar harvest, agriculture, emulation, savings…; the defense of the homeland, women’s demands, the fight against racial discrimination, caring for social property, a constant exhortation to study, and, naturally, solidarity with Vietnam and with other peoples of Latin America, Africa and Asia, and world peace.
The other universe contained in Posters of… refers to the extraordinary cultural development promoted in those years, from the paradigmatic posters of protest song and others concerning music, festivals or events organized by Casa de las Américas, to the most famous posters of all: the ones produced by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), which supported premieres and promoted Cuban films as well as the Festival of New Latin American Cinema. This section also includes a wide range of posters announcing art exhibitions, book fairs, various prizes, the Carnival, cultural events, and sports, conceived as a right of the people.
Posters of the Revolution is an artistic object and at the same time a reference book, a gift for lovers of the visual arts and for scholars of Cuban social and cultural anthropology—an stimulus to understand history better from images, which, many times, “say more than a thousand words.” ▪