With the world’s activists currently taking centre stage making a stand against huge issues such as climate change and human rights, it’s perhaps a fitting time for this new exhibition taking place at House of Illustration.
Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics showcases rare graphic design from Cuba’s ‘golden age’ by artists who produced uncompromising design and illustration to deliver Cuba’s revolutionary message.
The exhibition brings together work distributed across the globe by OSPAAAL: Fidel Castro’s Organisation of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America, an organisation founded to promote cooperation between socialist countries and liberation movements.
From 1966 until 2019, OSPAAAL’s designers in Havana produced hundreds of posters and magazines that expressed solidarity with the U.S.A.’s Black Panther Party, condemned apartheid in South Africa and the Vietnam War and celebrated Latin America’s revolutionary icons.
Throughout the Cold War, artists including Alfredo Rostgaard, Helena Serrano, Rafael Enríquez and Gladys Acosta Ávila produced provocative posters and bold editorial design for Tricontinental, an illustrated magazine that featured articles by radical public figures, both expected – like Che Guevara and Malcolm X – and unexpected, like Jean-Paul Sartre and Jane Fonda.
House of Illustration will display 170 works (100 posters and 70 magazines) produced by 33 designers, many of them women. All were created between 1965 and 1992, reframing the familiar story of the Cold War through a wholly unfamiliar angle.
OSPAAAL’s designers used the tools of the capitalist advertising industry to create compelling graphics for entirely opposite purposes. Their work – revolutionary in both style and substance – stands as a prime example of art for political persuasion.
While originally distributed freely in editions of thousands, OSPAAAL posters and magazines are now rare and highly sought-after. The works in the exhibition, drawn from a single UK private collection – The Mike Stanfield Collection – offer a rare insight into this defining period in Cuba’s design history.
Exhibition curator Oliva Ahmad says:
“The boldness and range of approaches to design in this collection is astonishing. Although these artists were designing to express the political ideology of one nation, they weren’t limited to one aesthetic; their work is marked by an extraordinary freedom to experiment. Visitors will see everything from bold typography and photomontage to psychedelic colours and pop culture-inspired graphics. These posters and magazines don’t just represent exemplary design – they also provide a fascinating record of the global ideological conflicts of the 20th century.”
Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics at House of Illustration runs till 19 January 2020
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