Viet Nam War Era-Iraq War Era

Peace Symbol
Created by Gerald Holtom in 1958
Source: Getty Images

Political posters before the sixties were rare in the US.  During the Cold War and the McCarthyisim, thousands of US citizens were accused of being either Communist or Communist sympathizers,  the government  investigated or questioned the suspects;  many people lost their jobs, their careers were in jeopardy or destroyed and some were imprisoned. Some of these punishments were in later years disregarded and declared unconstitutional.  McCarthyism was seconded by the FBI under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover.

During the 50’s, socially conscious graphic artists produced limited edition prints shared between friends. The most common public manifestations were placards stating “I AM A MAN.”  Then came the hippie’s counterculture and rock scene starting in Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The 60’s explosion of posters, created the perfect preamble for a very different imagery: the political posters that flooded the different cities of the United States, mostly against the Vietnam War.

Source: Marwick A. The Sixties, Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 Oxford University Press.  http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/marwick-sixties.html

Source: Marwick A. The Sixties, Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 Oxford University Press. http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/marwick-sixties.html

Protest against the Vietnam War increased at the end of the 60’s and with them the amount of visual images. The graphics were more realistic, more aggressive and with direct, clear and concrete messages. There were also influenced in Goya’s paintings (first one above) as well as Khäte Kollwits prints.

Source: Marwick A. The Sixties, Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 Oxford University Press. http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/marwick-sixties.html

Some of the posters were made by professional artists pro bono, but most of them were produced by amateurs, in garages and underground printing studios. The boom of posters during the 60’s occurred not only in the United States.  Cuba was a strong producer of anti-Viet Nam war visuals, mostly anti-USA.  All these visuals  were distributed in Latin America and Africa, in support of the Vietnamese government. Likewise, in Vietnam there were a series of posters elaborated with more rudimentary equipment and tools.  The following are examples of a couple of Cuban’s posters and Vietnamese ones. The one I feel it was very well done,  with strong imagery  is “Lipstick”  by the Cuban Painter and Printmaker Jose Gomez Fresquet (Fremez).  The reference to chemical warfare vs the lipstick that  not only is a chemical but its shape is similar to  a bullet is very effective and at the same time brutal, contrasting the portraits of the two women.  The position of the heads and the directions of the eyes and the chosen colors of the whole piece adds tension to whole piece.    Th  A lot of the Vietnamese poster I found were made with Tempera and pencil.  I guess using the resources on hand. 

Idols  like John Lenon turned leaders of the worldwide peace movement, supporting the Black Panthers to promote cultural revolution,  and join the fights of other artists like Allan Ginsberg or  Jerry Rubin.

Source: Marwick A. The Sixties, Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 Oxford University Press. http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/marwick-sixties.html

Source: Search for Vietnam War posters, images

Thinking on the latest War in Iraq,  the posters continued to be important visuals of popular awareness.  They  have changed not only in style but also in the way they are produced and the systems they are distributed. The new poster are done both using traditional silk screen , offset techniques or done digitally.  The big difference these days is that any image  can be distributed all over the world in a matter of seconds.

Appropriation of images continues to be part of the posters.  As we can see, the last two images shown below used  Picasso’s Guernica for the Iraq War.

Lately, posters have a less important function as political tools, vehicle of awareness. The internet changed dramatically the way we communicate.  Regardless of the format, poster, banner, video, app or wherever new technology is developed, what  matter is that we- the collective of human beings , artists, graphic designers and people in the field of communication, respond to events that create pain, suffocate  or ruin our or other  communities around the world.  To me, the most important element of the 60’s era was that the people were addressing INTERNAL social and political problems that directly destroyed other communities (Viet Nam.)   They were trying to “CLEAN and FIX the many issues our house needed to review.  It was the overwhelming massive response of regular citizens what made the government to respond.   There is a lot to learn from these 60’s-70’s years.  In a way, nowadays, we all have on the tip of our fingers the “60’s garage” or “little print shop” with our computer, our telephone, iPad or well, brushes and pencils.

Souce: Google search War in Iraq posters

Souce: Google search War in Iraq posters

Source: Online Chapter: Peace Symbols: Posters in Movements against the Wars in Vietnam and Iraq
http://public.wsu.edu/~amerstu/ArtofProtest/onlinechintro1.html

Source: Online Chapter: Peace Symbols: Posters in Movements against the Wars in Vietnam and Iraq
http://public.wsu.edu/~amerstu/ArtofProtest/onlinechintro1.html

References

Cushing, L. New World Coming: The Sixties and the Shaping of Global Consciousness, 2009. Political graphics of the “long 1960s”http://www.docspopuli.org/articles/NewWorldComing.html
Marwick A. The Sixties, Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 Oxford University Press. http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/marwick-sixties.html
Oakland Museum of California, Political Posters’ Collection
http://collections.museumca.org/?q=category/2011-schema/history/political-posters&page=1
Online Chapter: Peace Symbols: Posters in Movements against the Wars in Vietnam and Iraq http://public.wsu.edu/~amerstu/ArtofProtest/onlinechintro1.html

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