On January 1, 1959, a now famous poster was created and widely distributed to celebrate the fall of Fulgencio Batista’s army in Cuba. The use of public messaging graphics under the US-backed dictator had up until then been utilized for something closer to what we would recognize as standard advertising. But the Cuban Revolution ushered in a radical reenvisioning of social consciousness, and with this the Cuban posters, or carteles, emerged. Whether produced for the Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (OSPAAAL), the Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR), or the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), posters were an immediate outlet through which Cuban artists and printers could apply their skills toward a greater national and often international purpose. This expressive tool encouraged youth to join in the sugar harvest, called citizens to Revolution Square, and honored International Women’s Day. Promoting solidarity, public well-being and broad socialist ideas, these posters and their producers—the ingenious workforce that developed the graphics industry after the revolution—give us a glimpse into the everyday slogans of this singular period in history and encourage us to contemplate their imported values, both real and imagined, today.
This exhibition presents fifteen posters from the 1970s, a decade that some retrospectively refer to as a “dark period” of Cuban culture, when visual artists felt the intensifying constraints of the regime’s propaganda machine. But embedded into the fiber of the carteles are the spirit and strength of the producers themselves, a vibrancy that cannot be diminished or forgotten.