Brandon Schaefer November 27, 2013
2013 is soon to close, and it would be hard to argue that we aren’t living in a renaissance of screen-printed film art with few signs of slowing down. No one can predict the future, but we can pay tribute to the past and remember those earliest of pioneers of the artform: an entity with a rotating stable of tremendously talented artists capable of pushing the limitations of the medium to their breaking point. Mondo might be the first name that pops in to your head, but we’re reaching back further in time and beyond our shores to an unlikely place.
The ICAIC (Instituto Cubano del Arte y la Industria Cinematográficos) was formed by the Cuban government after the country’s revolution and has been responsible for commissioning over 1,700 poster designs since its inception in 1959. Created to act as both a distributor and producer of films manufactured at home and aboard, the ICAIC has showcased films from across the globe in an effort to promote cinema and educate the populace. Both choice and embargo inspired the decision to ignore any original advertising accompanying a foreign film in favor of original work made by designers native to Cuba.
Relatively tight budgets often forced artists to simplify and focus their designs, moving toward symbol or metaphor and away from commercial illustrations reminiscent of vintage Hollywood. Posters quickly became less detailed and reliant on conventional imagery, instead pushing ideas through abstraction, color, and paired down typography. The resulting work, most of it from decades ago, feels fresh even now; these days, a new silkscreened film poster seems to be making it’s way out into the world with its own signature spin on an old favorite everywhere you turn. Handcrafted and signed by the artist, many serve as mementos for seeing a classic once again on the big screen. Their messages are often more personal than their commercial counterparts, making them feel like a distant relative of Cuba’s own artistic output. Yet much like today, the printed runs from the ICAIC were low, typically sitting at just over a couple hundred posters. Fewer resources meant that the techniques and materials used to print were less auspicious than what are available to the contemporary artists we’re so familiar with. Cuban artists consciously leaned in to their limitations, invigorating the look and feel of each piece by harnessing their constraints and embracing a bold yet playful visual sensibility.
With a sea of posters under their belt, Cuba’s film industry possess an archive of screenprinted art for film rarely matched in quality, giving art and film fans alike a seemingly endless well to dive into. They manage to give us a glimpse at the past, however removed it is from our shores, while offering a mirror to the present and, just maybe, inspiration for the future.
El Rostro – Silvio Gaytón
Harakari – Antonio Fernández Reborio
The Good Life – René Azcuy Cárdenas
The Saragossa Manuscript – Holbeín López
Captive’s Island – Aldo Amador
The Woman – Alfredo González Rostgaard
Furious Wolf – Antonio Pérez (Niko) González
The Stranger Within a Woman – Antonio Pérez (Niko) González
The Leandras – Eduardo Muñoz Bachs
Zatoichi Challenged – Eduardo Muñoz Bachs
Cold Days – Francisco Yánes Mayán
The Ambush: Incident at Blood Pass – Jorge Dimas González Linares
Bloody Search for Peace – Jorge Dimas González Linares
The Hassled Hooker – Julio Eloy Mesa Pérez
Poisoned in Blue – Miguel A. Navarro
The Bull – Raymondo García Parra
I Knew Her Well – Raymundo García Parra
Stolen Kisses – René Azcuy Cárdenas
The Killers – René Azcuy Cárdenas
The Night Was Made For… – Umberto Peña Garriga
Pepperminte Frappe – Antonio Fernández Reborio
The Citizen Rebels – Antonio Pérez (Ñiko) González
Rage – Antonio Pérez (Ñiko) González
Orange Boy – Antonio Pérez (Ñiko) González
Alarm in the Pioneer Camp – René Azcuy Cárdenas
Yojimbo – Eduardo Muñoz Bachs
Categories: ColumnsTags: Brandon schaefer, Columns, Cuba, Cuban Art, Harakiri, Movie posters, Stolen Kisses, The Art House