Showing posts with label Grapus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grapus. Show all posts

18 March 2016

Translation: 'International Graphics,' the Art of Political Posters

This article by Olivier Rogez was originally published on RFI on March 7, 2016 in French. 

How do you protest through art? In the 1970s and ‘80s, the poster was often the preferred vector for political and social struggles. In Paris, the exhibition “International Graphics” is showing more than 170 political posters of this period until May 29 at the Library for Contemporary International Documentation (Bdic).

It was before the invention of the Internet. In order to protest, to launch a confrontation, there were posters. Graphic designers, painters and graphic artists combined art and politics in order to create a cultural product in its own right.

The political poster has seen many Golden Ages — the 1920s with the Russian Constructivists or the European Springs of the 1960s. 1970 to 1990 was a period of great planetary movements, against the Vietnam War or against apartheid. This prolific period is what the Bdic is commemorating. At that time, we saw some of the iconic figures of the 20th century emerge. 

From Che Guevara to the Peace Dove

“Of course, we think of the figure of Che Guevara or the conical Vietnamese hat,” says Valérie Tesnière, the exhibit curator. “We must not forget the peace dove. A peace dove that walks with Grapus, but that is in prison with Klaus Staeck. There is also the theme of three continents, of non-aligned countries …”

But in the 1970s, there was not just the rhetoric of the raised fist or the brandished weapon. The era is also about social struggles “and signs of citizen mobilization, peace marches,” continues Valérie Tesnière. “When I see this Grapus poster that reinterprets Picasso’s dove by adding feet to it, I am struck. Indeed, we find ourselves much more within something that speaks to us today than within the slightly simplistic rhetoric of the raised fist or brandished weapon. Sure, this rhetoric exists, but it has been running out of steam these past two decades.” 

Schools and Collectives

The international graphics exhibition sheds light on networks, schools and collectives — the Grapus group in France or Wild Plakken in the Netherlands. The graphic designers draw their inspiration from the Constructivists but also from American Pop Art. Two countries both become references and sources of inspiration, Poland of the graphic designer Henryk Tomaszewski and Cuba.

“During this era, the island is rather illiterate when Fidel Castro carries out his revolution. It’s very obvious that the poster is a means of propaganda through images, something that is not at all true for Poland. The graphic designers there are in a much more ambiguous situation. For them, the poster is also a means of having a certain freedom of expression that does not necessarily have a political message. Moreover, the Poles invested a lot in the cultural poster.”

With the tightening of the laws about public posters, activist artists slowly deserted city walls. Today, the political poster has become more of an intimate object, poster or work of art.