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 (…).
As could be appreciated in the exhibited works, graphic expression linked to cinematography enjoyed an extraordinary originality, diversity and, at the same time, constancy (…).
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. (…)