Chapter 36 - Art of Posters for Films - the Cuban School

 The Cuban school of Film posters started after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, with  the pioneering works of gaphic designers such as, Eduardo Muñoz Bachs,  Antonio Perez known as Ñiko, Antonio Fernández Reiboro, René Azcuy Cardenas, and Raul Martinez Gonzales among others. The most important impetus  came from the establishment of  El Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC), the Cuban Art Institute of cinematography,  by the Cuban revolutionary leadership in 1960. The bold, aesthetically powerful, stunningly balanced compositions, and thought provoking posters are the main features of the Cuban school.

 Eduardo Muñoz Bachs

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs was born in Valencia, Spain in 1937. The family moved to France when Eduardo was two years old and after a year relocated to Cuba. His father was a journalist, a teacher and one of the first television producers in Cuban  in the early 1950s. Bachs,  a naturally gifted artist, began to work as a graphic designer at the age of 16,  without ever attending any art school. In 1958, one year before the Cuban Revolution, he was hired as a full time animation artist for the Cuban television.
Zoro, 1976

 Zatoichi challenged! , 1967 

Cría cuervos , 1976

Bach joined the animation department of ICAIC, upon its inception in 1960. His distinguished career as the most prolific ICAIC poster designer was launched by his creation of the first  ICAIC poster: Historias de la Revolución in 1960. Bach spent his entire career at the ICAIC, except  for a brief period between 1962 to 65, when he joined the advertising department of Agencia intercomunicaciones, while continuing to make occasional posters for the ICAIC. 
Having a friendly attitude, and eager to accept and respond rapidly to  various projects he created a large body of work,  that has never been cataloged

Vampiros en la Habana, 1985

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, 1974

  Gigi, 1958 

 The Lovers of Hiroshima/A Record of Love and Death, 1966

Using powerful compositions enhanced  by a  rich and vibrant pallet of five to six colors together with an elegant  handwritten typography his silkscreen  posters are archetype of an aesthetically potent visual communication. It is estimated that over two thirds of his posters include a handwritten typography, which allowed him to quickly submit a finished model when orders came especially during emergencies. He also worked as graphic designer of children's books. Bachs'  work has been recognized internationally.   In 1968, he won the bronze medal in a children  books' competition in Varna, Bulgaria, as well, in 1986, he won the second prize in an International Competition of book illustrations for Youth, in Japan. But it is also true that many of his posters have a monumental character, quality first showing. During his career,  Bachs has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions  such as Exposición International Graphic Arts (Brno, Tchescoslovaquie), the International Poster Biennale (Warsaw, Poland) and the International Biennial of Lineup (Lahti, Finland). He also won several prestigious awards for his movie posters including, the First International Prize Filmexpo Ottawa in 1972, the First Prize at the International Competition in Paris movie posters and the First Prize at the international film posters in the US, in  1978. He died in Havana on July 22, 2001.

Antonio Perez -- Ñiko

Antonio Perez -- Ñiko, was born in Havana, Cuba in 1941. He studied History of Art at University of Havana, and has taught at Universidad Veracruzanas' José Antonio Echeverría Politechnical Institute, Instituto Superior de Arte de la Habana,  Instituto Superior de Diseno Industrial, and  Gestault School of Design in Xalapa.   Closely associated with ICAIC, since 1968, he has made posters for Cuban and foreign films  as well as revolutionary political posters during the 1960- 70 era. He is currently living in Mexico.

 Che, 1983
De algún tiempo a esta parte
Ñiko is mainly interested in social posters, but he has also created a number of memorable posters for films. He participated in the International Film Poster Exhibition, at Ottawa, in 1972, where he won an Award of Merit. Five years later his works were exhibited in Paris at Centre national d'art et de culture Georuges Pompido. As well, he has exhibited  at  Bienal Internacional del Cartel en Mexico (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998), International Poster Biennale, Warsaw (1994) and Lahti Poster Biennale (1995).

 Frenesi, Poster for Alfred Hitchcock's  Frenzy,1972.

el oscaso de los cheyennes, Poster for John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn, 1964.

Poster for James Whale's Frankenstein


In 1983 Ñiko won National Culture Award of Cuba, and in 1992, he won the second prize, Bienal Internacional del Cartel en Mexico. Other prizes include Special Prize (group) First Contest of Movie Posters, Cannes, 1973; Special Prize (group) Contest of Movie Posters, 1974; Prize of Second International Biennial of Movie Posters, Cannes, 1974; Prize at Second International Biennial of Posters, Mexico, 1974; First Grand Prize  Paris International Festival II, 1976.   He has published the Book of Catalog  (Ñico Carteles, 1998), Expo Jiráfica Catalog, 1999. Expo France Catalog, 1999 and essays about the culture of Veracruz Plastic, 2000. 

Antonio Fernández Reiboro

 Antonio Fernández Reiboro was born in Nuevitas, in Camagüey, Cuba in 1935. His parents  Antonio Fernández de la Fuente, the owner of "La Francia", a department store, and Julia Robiro  Varquez  were Spanish emigrants to Cuba.  Antonio began to work as a graphic designer at La Francia, while studying architecture and design at the University of Havana. He worked a as a designer for Flogal Department store an Olivetti in Havana, and during 1960-63, joined as an assistant to the architect Ricardo Porro in the construction of National School of Art in Havana, and in 1963 designs the poster for for the 7th International Congress of Architecture.   In 1964 he joined the ICAIC as poster designer. He designed the Cuban pavilions in the Leipzig Trade Show in 1965, and in Tokyo in 1067. 

Reiboro has been a prolific  poster designer, who was among the first artists  abandoning  Socialist Realism. He has won numerous awards such as  Prix Special Prize at Ottawa international  Film Festival in 1972,    Merit Prize, at  Cannes' XXVII International Film  Festival in 1974, Grand prize  for poster exhibition at Cannes'  XXVIII Internatinal Film Festival,  and Grand Prize at Paris Internatinal Poster Exhibition in 1975.  In 1982, Reiboro migrated to Spain and began to work at the Ministry of culture. He has also directed several films.

René Azcuy Cardenas

Paul René Azcuy Cardenas was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1939.  In 1955, he entered the National School of Fine Arts (Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes), at San Alejandro, Havana -- the oldest and most prestigious fine arts school in Cuba and at the very same year, 1955 he entered for a two years course  at the College of Arts and Crafts in Havana. He also studied at the School of Psychology at the University of Havana. Over the period 1964-83 Cardenas worked as a Graphic Designer for the ICAIC. He has taught at the School of Architecture  at Universidad Metropolitana Xochimilco, Benemérita University of Puebla. Pacific University of Chile, the Higher Institute of Applied Arts
Hungary, the Oriental Institute of Naples in Italy,   Escuela Superior of Graphic Design in Rosario in Argentina,   University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada and Colegio Universitario de Segovia in Spain.
In 1992 he served as a judge of the Second  International  Poster Biennale  at  Mexico, and in 1996 acted as a member of the Organizing Committee for the Fourth International Poster Biennale at Mexico.

Cardenas'  Solo Exhibitions include his 1977 exhibition  ''The hands of Azcuy " at Sala Rubén Martínez Villena,UNEAC  Gallery  , in Havana, and his 1988,''show "René Azcuy Affiches" at the  Maison de L'Amerique Latine, in Paris, France. He has also participated in a number of group shows. Among the awards and honors he has received are:  Poster Prize in 1966. World Chess Olympiad, Havana, 1968 Poster and logo Prize of Cultural Congress in Havana, 1974 Award  from International Film Poster Exhibition in  Ottawa, the 1974 First Prize of the International Film Poster Competition from the Hollywood Report, Los Angeles, the 1984 First Prize Coral of the Sixth  Latin American Competition for Film Posters at the Sixth International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Havana. Cardenas  works are at many international galleries including the  Center for Cuban Studies in  New York, the George Pompidou Centre in Paris, Library of Congress in  Washington  and the Poster Museum, at Wilanow, Warsaw. 

Throughout his career René Azcuy has focued primarily in black and white compositions. In fact, this has been the hallmark of his artistic expression in a visual communication paradigm. In his posters  René Azcuy is particularly interested in the expression conveyed by hands as well as  the exaggerated facial expression  as the main feature  of his main thematic compositions, which may  include; the open hand, holding hands, fist, and various hand gestures associated with imploring, quarreling, threatening, rage, fear  and a wide range of other human experiences or various expression of silence, suspicion, sadness and so on, which reveal his deep understanding of human drama. 

Raúl Martínez González


Raúl Martínez González, was born in Ciego de Ávila and studied in Havana and at the Art Institute of Chicago. His early works were abstract, but he moved towards figurative design later in his career. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Martínez participated in the establishment of the ICAIC. He was influenced by the growing pop-art movement, and used this style in a number of his magazine, book and poster designs. Many of his works carried the themes and iconography of the Cuban revolution, using vibrant colors and comic book themes. In 1966 Martínez began the first of many designs based around the image of national hero José Martí. Works by Raúl Martínez are on exhibit in museums throughout the world. He had a large number of solo and group exhibitions, including  an exhibition of his drawings and designs at the Center of Cuban Studies in New York in 1975. He won the Silver Medal in the  Cuban Painting Exhibition at Tampa University, Florida. Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts dedicates a large space in the permanent collections halls to Raúl Martínez.

In the early 1950s, Martínez—along with such artists as Guido Llinás and Tomas Oliva—established the group Los Once (The Eleven), whose members adapted New York School-style Abstract Expressionism in the context of Cuban art. After the success of the Cuban revolution in 1959, Martínez moved to advertisement, and his success  provided him the opportunity to assume the art direction of the literary magazine, Lunes de Revolución. Meanwhile, he continued to produce large abstract paintings. However, with his 1964 "Homage" series, Martínez began to use collage  with a wide array of  images,  including;  furniture, magazine covers, family photos, and everyday objects, fused with the spontaneous aesthetic of the revolutionary graffiti and street art of Havana. 

1968 film poster design for “Lucia;”  was reproduced in the 1970 book The Art of the Revolution,  with a preface by Susan Sontag. As an artistic photographer, he participated in the influential Foto-Mentira exhibition of 1965 and for the Venice Biennale of 1984, he participated with a mural design.  With his 1978 “La Gran Familia,” he began to integrate photography into his art, in which he juxtaposed  the faces of Cuban youth along with their leaders, the mural is now at the permanent collection, of El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, in Havana. He died in 1995. 

 Go to the next chapter; Chapter 37 - the Polish School and the Polish Art of Opera, Film and Circus Posters

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Chapter 35 - Grafitti and Street Art

Street art and Graffiti art are part of the modern urban scene that are developed in public spaces, and at times imply the unsanctioned art as opposed to the art accepted by the establishment. Whereas traditional graffiti artists have primarily used free-hand aerosol paints to produce their works,  "street art" encompasses many other media and techniques, including: LED art, mosaic tiling, murals, stencil art, sticker art, street installations, wheatpasting, woodblocking, video projection, and yarn bombing. The motivations and objectives that drive street artists are as varied as the artists themselves. There is a strong current of activism and subversion in urban art. Street art can be a powerful platform for reaching the public, and frequent themes include adbusting, subvertising and other culture jamming, the abolishment of private property and reclaiming the streets. Some street artists use "smart vandalism" as a way to raise awareness of social and political issues. Other street artists simply see urban space as an untapped format for personal artwork, while others may appreciate the challenges and risks that are associated with installing illicit artwork in public places. However the universal theme in most, if not all street art, is that adapting visual artwork into a format which utilizes public space, allows artists who may otherwise feel disenfranchised, to reach a much broader audience than traditional artwork and galleries normally allow. For these reasons street art is sometimes considered "post-graffiti" and sometimes even "neo-graffiti."  Street art can be found around the world and street artists often travel to other countries so they can spread their designs.

Graffiti has become a common stepping stone for many members of both the art and design community in North America and abroad. Within the United States Graffiti Artists such as Mike Giant, Pursue, Rime, Noah and countless others have made careers in skateboard, apparel and shoe design for companies such as DC Shoes, Adidas, Rebel8 Osiris or Circa.  Meanwhile there are many others such as DZINE, Daze, Blade, The Mac that have made the switch to gallery artists often times not even using their initial medium, spray paint. According to Marc Ecko, an urban clothing designer, who has been an advocate of graffiti as an art form;  "Graffiti is without question the most powerful art movement in recent history and has been a driving inspiration throughout my career."   Of course, writing and painting pictures on the walls have a long history, but creation of modern spray paints and  other coloring media  have given a new impetus to this activity and  have even  raised it to the art status. Shortly after the death of Charlie Parker  the great saxophone player in Jazz scene, whose nickname was "Bird", graffiti began to appear around New York with the words "Bird Lives". In Paris, during the student protests and general strike of May 1968 graffiti slogans  such as L'ennui est contre-révolutionnaire ("Boredom is counterrevolutionary") was sprayed on the walls. In the  streets of London and Paris the Iranian dissidents graffiti of "Down with the Shah" was a familiar scene during the 1970s, and in the  U.S. a popular graffiti during this time was the legend "Dick Nixon Before He Dicks You".


Street artists have challenged art by situating it in non-art contexts.  The Graffiti in particular is usually associated with the anti-establishment. However, the aim of graffiti or street art is not  to change the definition of an artwork, but rather to question the existing environment with its own language. They attempt to have their work communicate with everyday people about socially relevant themes in ways that are informed by esthetic values without being imprisoned by them.  Nevertheless, some artists have become part of the main stream. For instance, graffiti artists Lee Quinones and Fab 5 Freddy were given a gallery opening in Rome by art dealer Claudio Bruni.  Fab 5 Freddy and Futura 2000 took hip hop graffiti to Paris and London as part of the New York City Rap Tour in 1983.  The emergence of the new stencil graffiti genre around  1981 by graffiti artist Blek le Rat in Paris was another landmark in the recognition of this art form and by 1985 stencils had appeared in other cities including New York City, Sydney and Melbourne, where they were documented by American photographer Charles Gatewood and Australian photographer Rennie Ellis. In 1981, Washington Project for the Arts held an exhibition entitled Street Art, which included John Fekner, Fab Five Freddy and Lee Quinones working directly on the streets. Fekner, a pioneer in urban art, is included in Cedar Lewisohn’s book Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, which accompanied the 2008 Street Art exhibition at the Tate Modern in England, of which Lewisohn was the curator.

With the popularity and legitimization of graffiti has come a level of commercialization. In 2001, computer giant IBM launched an advertising campaign in Chicago and San Francisco which involved people spray painting on sidewalks a peace symbol, a heart, and a penguin (Linux mascot), to represent "Peace, Love, and Linux." However due to illegalities some of the "street artists" were arrested and charged with vandalism, and IBM was fined more than US$120,000 for punitive and clean-up costs. In 2005, a similar ad campaign was launched by Sony and executed by TATS CRU in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Miami to market its handheld PSP gaming system. In this campaign, taking notice of the legal problems of the IBM campaign, Sony paid building owners for the rights to paint on their buildings "a collection of dizzy-eyed urban kids playing with the PSP as if it were a skateboard, a paddle or a rocking horse." Keith Haring was another well-known graffiti artist who brought Pop Art and graffiti to the commercial mainstream. In the 1980s, Haring opened his first Pop Shop: a store that offered everyone access to his works—which until then could only be found spray-painted on city walls. Pop Shop offered commodities like bags and t-shirts. Haring explained that, "The Pop Shop makes my work accessible. It's about participation on a big level, the point was that we didn't want to produce things that would cheapen the art. In other words, this was still art as statement".

BLU, the Italian Street Artist

Blu is an Italian street artist from Bologna. His graffiti art, using spray paint appeared  in 1999. He gradually developed his own distinct style with house paint.  Using rollers mounted on top of telescopic sticks, he depicts monstrous degenerated characters with a dark sense of humor.

In 2004, his work  was noticed by some art galleries which offered  him solo-exhibitions.  He has said of his work;
my painting are reflecting more than what I could say with words. Personally I try live without making violence on anyone. I see two really dangerous things in the world: fear and rage. Everyone can be easily controlled through these emotions, especially in this historical moment.

Go to the next chapter; Chapter 36 - Art of Posters for Films - the Cuban School

Ben Eine

Ben Flynn, his work under signature "Eine", was born in 1970 in London, England. One of London’s most prolific and interesting street artists, Eine is known for his "street typography". He started as vandal when he was fifteen, leaving his first tag all over London before eventually developing a distinct typographic style. His bright, colorful letters have been painted on the street walls around in many cities, among them Los Angels , San Francisco, Paris, Dublin, Tokyo, Stockholm and London.

Eine has exhibited at White Walls gallery in San Francisco, and his works was included in the biggest exhibition of street art to date “Art in the Streets” at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Los Angeles. David Cameron has presented one of Eine's works to President Obama as a gift on his first official state visit. The Middlesex Street in London, which is decorated with his trademark colours and typography is described by The Times as “a street now internationally recognized as a living piece of art with direct links to The White House.”

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