19 September 1996 - 12 January 1997
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Posters from the former Soviet Union, Cuba and China

The Chairman Smiles

The International Institute of Social History is preparing a poster exhibition, scheduled for 19 September 1996 - 12 January 1997, at the National Trade Union Museum in Amsterdam. From February 1997, this exhibition will be available to other museums and institutions.

The exhibition will consist of c. 100 posters from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and China, drawn from the collection of the IISH. In all three countries, the poster served an important role in the official propaganda proclaiming communist ideology. This led to very different styles: a mixture of avant-garde design with elements of folk culture in the Soviet Union; brightly coloured silkscreens reminiscent of Pop Art from Cuba; and the heroic realism of the Chinese painters' collectives. In the history of the political poster, the three styles have had an enormous influence. They raise questions about the role of the artist in political propaganda, and the difficult relationship between totalitarian ideology and artistic freedom. Historically, the posters attest to the stirring history of world communism.

Most importantly, the Russian, Cuban, and Chinese posters can be a feast for the eye, and the selection for this exhibition contains some of the very best examples. This exhibition is not meant exclusively for an audience of specialists, but aimed at a broader public with interest in art, design, and social history.

Visual metaphors
The Soviet section of the exhibition includes posters from around 1917 until the late thirties, designed by such artists as Radakov, Lebedev, Ceremnych, Moor, Deni, Klucis, Sen'kin, and Kulagina. Among the themes are the Revolution, the civil war, alphabetization campaigns, agricultural reform, industrialization, political discipline, and militarization. Perhaps the most spectacular posters are the photomontages of Klucis and Sen'kin, in sizes up to c. 140x100 cm.
The Cuban posters date from the 1960s and 1970s, and are designed by Rostgaard, Raul Martinez, Bachs, Julio Eloy Mesa, and others. Their themes include revolutionary commemorations, heroes and leaders as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, international solidarity, and culture. The silkscreened film posters of the ICAIC are luxuriously coloured and most inventive in their use of visual metaphors.
The exhibition will contain posters from the 1960s to the 1980s from China. This section portrays the work of the people's painters' brigades, charming in their realism and sometimes frightening in their heroism. Subjects are the Cultural Revolution, the glorification of Mao, industrial and agricultural labour, and the political reforms of the 1980s. The more recent posters are very rare, and have seldom been on view.

The exhibition 'The Chairman Smiles. Posters from the former Soviet Union, Cuba and China' will consist of c. 100 posters, varying in size from c. 140x100 cm. to c. 60x40 cm. The most frequent format is c. 80x60 cm.
The posters will be framed behind perspex, and have small captions containing information on designer, publisher, and year, and a translation of the main text. The publication of a catalogue, exhibition poster and/or postcard reproductions are still being determined.
The posters can be rented for a period of six weeks at a maximum, for DFL 2,000,- (estimated price, excl. transport and insurance).

For information, please contact:
Marien van der Heijden at IISH
Tel: +31-20-6685866
Fax: +31-20-6654181
E-mail mvh@iisg.nl.

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