Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Day of Solidarity with the People of Laos - Zarza 1969

This poster, by Rafael Zarza, features an armed resistance fighter protected by Buddha. Buddhism is the dominant religion in Laos where the communist regime embraced the religon due to the massive numbers of the local population practising it. In 1969 when this poster was issued Laos was in the midst of a secret war with US-backed military activity pitched against a complicated mix of communist anti colonial Asian and local forces. The poster is typically Cuban and very colourful, once again using pop art and local symbols to highlight a very bloody military conflict.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Yo Voy Estudiar Para Maestro - Mederos 1971

An absolute classic of Cuban poster design, this image by Rene Mederos is beautiful and very simple with only a few colours and very simple shapes to illustrate the young Cuban girl who plans to study to be a teacher. Working with silkscreen printing compelled the Cuban designers to use flat colours and simple shapes in their designs. And although this poster is offset printed it has the look of some of the best Cuban silkscreens. It was commissioned by Editora Politica.

Tricontinental Conference Fourth Anniversary - Rostgaard 1970

This simple and playful image by Alfredo Rostgaard uses the revolutionary fighter in three colours to represent the armed struggle for freedom among the three geographic areas represented by OSPAAAL (A, A, A = Asia, Africa and Latin America). The conference was designed to further the aims of a number of communist and socialist countries including Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and was an annual event in Havana.

Day of the Heroic Guerrilla - Martínez 1971

This OSPAAAL poster celebrates the Day of the Heroic Guerrilla, when Che Guevara is remembered in Cuba the day before the anniversary of his death on the 8th October. This simple black and white illustration by Olivio Martinez is nicely brightened by the stars and swirls of the orange motif to the right. Typically the image features Che's efforts as a revolutionary fighter in the jungles of Bolivia and elswhere which ultimately led to his downfall and capture. The iconography is typical of Cuban posters including the military dress, trusty Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition. ospaaal poster day heroic guerrilla 1971

Solidarity with the People of Mozambique - Forjans 1969

Here is a typically vibrant and interesting design from Jesus Forjans using an African doll like figure to represent the traditional, historical nature of Mozambique and the superimposed weapon to symbolise the armed revolution that was going on in 1969. During the 60s and early 70s the country saw an uprising against the Portuguese colonial government by the guerrilla forces of the Mozambique Liberation Front, backed by communist and left leaning counties including Cuba.
Typical of Cuban designs this poster is simple and colourful, using a national symbol to identify the country in terms of its local history in defiance of the ideology of the Portugese-led government of the time. Forjans has used an unusual cartoon-style method for seperating the purple and blue colours using psychedelic floral motifs (detail below), something that is often seen on Cuban silkscreen posters of the time.
ospaaal poster mozambique 1969ospaaal poster mozambique 1969

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Hiroshima - Unknown 1972

This is another great poster from OSPAAAL using simple pop art graphics, in this case by an unknown artist, to recall the bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945 by the American forces. The Cuban government's choice of August 6th for its day of world solidarity with the struggle of the Japanese people highlighted American aggression during a period when the Vietnam war was escalating. However in 1972 Japan, in contrast to a number of communist and socialist countries, had a democratic general election (won by the Liberal Democratic Party), a booming economy, and high levels of personal freedom. The Japanese people of 1972 may not have recognised the struggle represented by this poster.
solidarity with hiroshima ospaaal poster political japanese people

Solidarity with the Japanese People - Garcia 1971

August 6th 1945 was the day that the US air force dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, striking Hiroshima and killing up to 160,000 of the city's inhabitants, most of whom were civilians. The mortality rate continued to rise for months from radiation and disease but the primary cause of death was from burns. Daniel Garcia's artwork for this 1971 OSPAAAL poster is sombre and thought provoking, making use of the partially obscured face of a young Japanese citizen and burnt paper to remind the world of the horror of that day. The Cuban government's anti-American stance features heavily in its poster output but the subject matter generally focuses on the politics and events of the day. This poster recalls the events of 25 years earlier to highlight the aggression of the American government midway through the conflict in Vietnam and at a time when the American bombing was intensifying.
solidarity with japan hiroshima ospaaal poster political

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Inverno en Llamas - Raymundo 1968

A touch of San Fran psychedelic art lightens up this poster the way that flames light up churches in Răscoala, a Romanian film that highlights the struggle between rich and poor, religious and sectarian. A simple poster from Raymundo with a major contrast between the understated graphics of the church and the dramatic and in your face flames.
icaic movie raymundo poster political

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Solidarity with Latin America - Perez 1970

Asela Perez's classic design for this OSPAAAL poster looks like it was designed as a silkscreen with simple flat colours and shapes. The Cuban government believed that revolution would occur throughout Latin America, mirroring the experience of Cuba, and the design of this poster presents a unified continent, its power represented in the clenched fist and the revolutionary spirit in the rifle, held aloft. This classic image has been reused in a number of other Cuban posters.
solidarity with latin america ospaaal poster political

Los Hermanastros - Bachs 1969

Bachs' poster for this 1957 Japanese production features his trademark style to illustrate the tyrannical military officer at the centre of the film. Los Hermanastros (Stepbrothers) is a critique of male dominated Japanese society. The poster artwork is restrained yet creative, using limited colours and shapes to illustrate the aggressive face of the protagonist and the bright colours of his outfit.
los hermanastros cuba movie poster icaic

Tres Invencibles Samurais - Nico 1969

Here's a great poster for the 1964 Japanese film Three Outlaw Samurai (Sanbiki No Samurai) featuring wandering warrior Shiba defending the poor from the evils of the taxman. The playful artwork by Nico is typical of good silkscreen printing - using a few bold colours and simple shapes to create a bold and colourful design. The typography is typical of the late 60s and as usual with Cuban posters when the words don't fit on a single line they carry on to the next.
tres invencibles samurais cuban film cuba poster icaic

Londres a Go-Go - Reboiro 1968

Londres a Go-Go is The Sandwich Man, an odd British film from 1966 featuring a man who carries an advertising board round London witnessing a series of strange goings on. Reboiro's artwork is pretty and vibrant featuring a slightly psychedelic package, but doesn't relate to the plot of the film which centres around a model reunited with her boyfriend. This is still a nice poster and may well be an example of a Cuban poster design that was done without the artist actually seeing the film.
Londres a go go cuban film cuba poster icaic

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Senales Sobre la Ciudad - Nico 1969

Senales Sobre la Ciudad (Signali Nad Gradom or Signal over the City) is a 1960 Yugoslavian film about a rescue mission to save a member of the resistance during the second world war. Nico's playful imagery features the traditional helmet of the officers and colourful pop art graphics to illustrate the drama of the military operation.

I have the original mock-up of this poster (below).
nco senales icaic poster

Here's the mock-up:
bachs vieja dama icaic poster

Saturday, 7 May 2011

7 Hombres y una Muchacha - Azcuy - 1968

This Azcuy designed poster is wild, combining crazy colours and graphics to encapsulate the frenetic action of the film. 7 Hommes et une Garce (Seven men and a girl) is a swashbuckling French adventure set among the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte. Azcuy has managed to squeeze all seven men into the poster among the canons, explosions, costumes and flags. This poster is a classic.
7 hombres cuban film poster icaic

Gigi - Nico 1969

Gigi is a sumptuous American musical set at the turn of the century. Its commentary on the lives of the wealthy and priveledged must have appealed to the Cuban authorities. This 1969 poster by Nico takes the best of San Francisco poster design and adds an art nouveau twist to present a simple but effective image.
gigi cuban film poster icaic

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Fantomas Contra Scotland Yard - Bachs 1968

A great mix of photo montage and cartoon-style imagery collide in this 1968 poster by Bachs for a French crime caper film. The plot of the film revolves around multiple disguises adopted by Fantomas, the anti-hero of a series of James Bond knock-off comedies. The poster is a classic, and simple by Bachs usual standards. This poster has been torn in half at some time in its life and put back together with tape.
Fantomas Contra Scotland Yard ICAIC bachs

Sunday, 13 March 2011

LBJ - Reboiro 1968

LBJ is a surreal documentary by Santiago Alvarez which mixes photo montage with footage of Lyndon B Johnson's background and political life. With moments of Monty Python style animation and crude juxtaposition the film attempts satire and humor while portraying LBJ as a merchant of death. The poster is a classic using the same style of photomontage, objectifying and ridiculing. Reboiro also worked on the film's imagery and is credited in the titles.
hasta la victoria siempre

Here's the film:

Alvarez - LBJ (1968) by simpleappareil

Hasta la Victoria Siempre - Rostgaard 1968

One of the more famous Cuban posters, this 1968 poster by Rostgaard for a Santiago Alvarez documentary makes use of Korda's iconic image of Che Guevara. Hasta la Victoria Siempre (Onwards Forever to Victory) is Che's declaration of commitment to the revolutionary struggle. It's a simple pop-art style poster that places Che's iconic image in a heavy-bordered black box - a common method of displaying images of the dead in some cultures.

The film was made after Che's death to tell the story of his efforts in Bolivia to highlight the struggle of the opressed indigenous peoples and to foment revolution there. The 19 minute documentary was made quickly and makes use of photographs of Che's experiences in Bolivia cut with speeches and footage of him working among the people.

Notice the tape damage top and bottom of this poster which was given to an American visitor by Santiago Alvarez in 1968.
hasta la victoria siempre

Here's the film:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Bela - Oliva 1969

Another psychedelic design from Oliva that references the best of San Francisco's poster art, Bela is a now obscure 1966 Russian film set in the 19th century and featuring an army officer posted to the Caucasus who falls in love with a local prince. The poster's mysterious prince looks like a sinister magician while the dashing officer on horseback dominates the colourful design.
bela cuban poster icaic oliva

Tengo 19 Anos - Reboiro 1968

Tengo 19 Anos or Ich War Neunzehn (I was 19) is an East German pro-Soviet military drama in which the protagonist recalls his time as a commander in the Red Army. As with other Reboiro posters the colourful psychedelic design, which recalls Western concert posters, belies the serious nature of the East German production. The use of the portrait in positive and negative illustrates the divided alliances of the film's hero.
tengo 19 anos reboiro 1968

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Art of Revolution - Dugald Stermer and Susan Sontag

Dugald Stermer was art director for the left-leaning Ramparts magazine during the late 60s and came across Cuban posters when Reese Erlich, a reporter on the magazine returned from Cuba with a collection that he had acquired. Following this discovery Dugald put together a subsequent collection and produced this classic book on Cuban posters using his own text covering details of the agencies that were producing posters in Cuba. Susan Sontag also contributed text offering her views on poster production (which differ from mine in many ways).

The book itself is the best record of Cuban posters. It is a very large book and all the images are full colour reproductions covering a single page each. I guess this is the result of Dugald's influence. As a passionate and enthusiastic art director he must have been keen to preserve them in as big a format as possible. When I asked Dugald what happened to the posters they used for the book he told me they were left behind at the publishers, where they may have ended up in the bin.

If you collect Cuban posters this book is essential.
96 posters from Cuba

Havana 1970

Havana 1970

Havana 1970

El Nino del Ingenio - Reboiro 1968

Reboiro borrows heavily from San Francisco psychedelic art for this rarity of a poster for a Brasilian film about a boy sent to live on a sugar cane plantation in colonial Brazil. Menino de Engenho (Plantation Boy) is long forgotten black and white film with a serious message about the exploitative economics of an imperialist regime. Reboiro's decision to copy the poster art of San Francisco (which was almost certainly unavailable via any official channels in Cuba) is a statement of non-conformity by an artist who had seen his family's livelihood suffer under the revolution. The freedom that the Cuban film poster artists enjoyed under their guardian and protector Saul Yellin allowed them to draw on artistic styles that were anathema to the Cuban government. Once again this is a poster promoting a serious black and white socialist film using a flamboyant, confident and colourful design.
El Nino del Ingenio icaic reboiro 1968

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Ella y El - Bachs 1969

Bachs' poster for this Japanese drama Kanojo to Kare (She and He) is minimal and classy, using bold colours and simple shapes to illustrate the subjects of the film. The drama focuses on the growing stature of the female protagonist as she explores new interests and love, becoming more independent while her husband's status diminishes. Bachs illustration has her looking sassy, bold, colourful and in charge, while her husband is reduced to a character-less head, barely included in the design.
icaic pieza inconclusa para piano mecanico reboiro

Pieza Inconclusa para Piano Mecanico - Reboiro 1979

Channelling the surrealists, Reboiro makes good use of his trademark etching style mixed with a 70s pop art feel to illustrate this Cuban poster for the Soviet film Neokonchennaya Pyesa dlya Mekhanicheskogo Pianino (Unfinished Piece for the Player Piano). This is a Chekov-style family love story featuring an undercurrent of political themed support for the rights of peasants and workers. It is rich in philosophy and symbolism with some strange surrealist touches. I don't know the significance of the hand holding up a hand with a hole in it but the design is superb and this is a classic poster.
icaic pieza inconclusa para piano mecanico reboiro

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Samurai Asesino - Oliva 1968

Oliva, an artist who relished in copying the style of the psychedelic poster art of San Francisco, takes a more cartoonish approach to the design of this poster. The film, Samurai Assassin is a Japanese classic of clever plotting and swordplay and the subject matter appropriately features a time of revolutionary activity which saw the power of the Japanese classes diminished. The poster uses a very playful and childlike design aesthetic to illustrate the traditional samurai sword, in contrast to the dark subject matter of the film.
icaic oliva asesino samurai

La Cura y La Muchacha - Bachs 1968

This is a really nice poster by Bachs demonstrating how the most simple of Cuban poster designs can often be the most beautiful. This is a poster for the Brazilian film O Padre e a Moça (The Priest and the Girl) about a passionate relationship between a young priest and a girl in a small town. The poster isn't too subtle in its interpretation of the subject of the film - two hearts against a cross - but the execution is excellent and this is a vibrant and pretty poster design.
icaic la cura y la muchacha

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

La Masacre de Chicago - Navarro 1972

This poster, for the 1967 Roger Corman gangster flick The St Valentine's Day Massacre, ignores the conventions of the prohibition era tommy guns, big suits and wide brimmed hats and instead references Warhol-esq pop art. The artwork by Navarro is minimal but efective being based around the obvious heart motif, echoing the American poster (below).
icaic chicago navarro masacre

icaic chicago navarro masacre

Sunday, 2 May 2010

No Somos De Piedra - Nico 1969

Here's a simple and effective colourful poster from Nico for the 1968 Spanish comedy No Somos de Piedra (We are not made of Stone) which examines traditional gender roles within the Catholic chuch. The plot revolves around the use of birth control pills and looks at the financial impact of children born through unplanned pregnancies. Hence the solitary female subject of the poster positioned in insecure pose, with the title positioned in the womb.
icaic no somos de piedra

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sokolovo - Reboiro 1976

The battle of Sokolovo in 1943 saw the Red Army and Czech forces fighting together to hold back the Nazis. The film is a war film detailing the battle and highlighting the cooperation between the Soviet and Czech forces. Reboiro's poster seems to shy away from the imagery of war altogether and focuses on the blood red flower and 70s colour scheme. There is a possibility that this was one of those days when the artist didn't have time to see the film before he designed the poster. Or Reboiro's flower symbolises the bloody union as two armies joined forces to create bloodshed and massacre in the name of victory. Check out the difference between Reboiro's design and the Czech original below.
icaic reboiro sokolovo

icaic reboiro debemos saber

Debemos Saber - Reborio 1979

Once again this a great poster for a short film that is now long forgotten. Debemos Saber (We Should Know in English) is a 15 minute documentary by Cuban director Ramos. And that's all I can find out about it. This is a shame as the image of the eerie face has a mysterious look, making the film look very interesting. Again, this is typical Reboiro making use of complex detailed black and white technical illustration and adding a colourful Cuban twist.
icaic reboiro debemos saber

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Roble Maxima Urgencia - Reboiro 1976

This is a great moody poster by Reboiro for Roble Maxima Urgencia which is a 1973 Romanian war film originally called Stejar Extrema Urgenta. I can't find much detail about the film so I don't know the significance of the gun on a fish hook but the image is really nice.
reboiro roble urgencia icaic poster

El Brigadista - Reboiro 1977

Another of my fave posters displaying all the cliches of Cuban film posters by Reboiro. The 1977 film El Brigadista is a feature film that highlights the early days of the Cuban revolution and the efforts of the authorities to improve literacy among the population. The flower, one of the most common metaphors for the development of the people in Cuban poster art, is growing from the fertile flower bed of letters. Around the border is an army-style text with stars conveying the military aspect of the film's subject matter. The illustrated flower is set against Reboiro's trademark rainbow colour bands which feature in a number of his posters and are derived from psychedelic art of the late 60s.

Stylistically this is bold, confident and very colourful, representing the confidence and triumphant feel of the revolution during its heyday in the 60s and 70s.
reboiro el brigadista icaic poster

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Here are four mock-ups that I acquired from Florida based Cuban poster collector Irina, who in turn got them from the damp basement of the ICAIC in Cuba. Each one is painted on artistic board and provides the original artwork for a Cuban poster. These would have been passed to the printmaker who would have had to painstakingly cut the shapes out in each colour to do the silkscreening.

They are in rough condition but are unique and it's great to see some of the techniques of Cuban poster production revealed. On the back of each one are details of the colours specified by the artist and these would have been selected by the printer. The boards are all different sizes indicating an approach to poster production that relied on the materials available at that time. Where there is text to go on a poster the artist has used a randomly cutout piece of text from a publication and stuck it on to indicate where the text should go. The artists have also used cut out letters for the poster title and the printer has subsequently replaced these letters with the font of his or her choice. Bachs' posters use his own trademark lettering and these would have been cut out for the screening.

There are some interesting details on the reverse of the boards which I've tried to illustrate.

Here are the poster mock-ups and their backs:
Los Herederos - Niko
niko icaic poster

niko poster mock up

Senales Sobre la Ciudad - Nico
bachs vieja dama icaic poster

bachs vieja dama icaic poster

Las Senoritas de Rochefort - Reboiro
bachs vieja dama icaic poster

bachs vieja dama icaic poster

Las Tres Noches de un Amor - Bachs
bachs vieja dama icaic poster

bachs vieja dama icaic poster

On the back of Bachs' poster for Tres Noches de un Amor is the instruction "20 affiches [posters] 4 Fidel" which may be an indication that some were destined for the Cuban leader. The jury's out on this one. Here's the close up:
Fidel cuban poster

We can also see a numbering system in place. I assume that each poster got a number and that these were controlled by the man with the purple crayon. Here are 428, 468, 639 and 651:
Fidel cuban poster

Fidel cuban poster

Fidel cuban poster

Fidel cuban poster

And colours. Here are a list of colours, and a list of colours that clearly didn't work:
Fidel cuban poster

Fidel cuban poster

Two of the four mock-ups that I have also have the signature of Saul Yellin who was the supervisor and pseudo-protector of the ICAIC artists. He was responsible for approving the design of the posters. Yellin's approvals allowed the Cuban film poster artists' style to deviate further and further from what was considered appropriate for a socialist revolution.
signature approval icaic

cuban poster cuba

To see how small the originals are versus the finished poster I have taken a shot of these four against a full size poster:
cuban poster cuba icaic