Marvin Pena – Mundo Clark Editor-in-Chief
In Washington D.C, in front of a stately six-story mansion on 16th Street, hangs a flag. Decorated in red, white and blue, the flag is a colorful symbol that grabs the attention of visitors and passers-by alike, but it isn´t the well-known American flag. It is the Cuban flag that was only raised again last year, after the building ceased operation in 1961.
No one could have predicted the revival of a Cuban embassy in Washington D.C., given the turbulent history between Cuba and the U.S. Summarizing the past 60 years of these nations can be a challenge, but some of these historic episodes were immortalized in a unique way: posters.
Clark’s Archer Gallery presents its newest exhibition, “Hasta Siempre,” from Sept. 20 to Oct. 29. The exhibit features political and social posters from Latin American countries and Spain, reflecting the revolutionary movements from the ‘50s and ‘60s while using bright arrays of color and few words to express ideas and ideologies. The images reflect important matters of that time, such as electoral movements, anti-imperialism, solidarity between nations, human rights and social insurrections across the continent.
Senseney Stokes, the director of Archer Gallery, emphasized the importance of presenting students with artwork to enrich their education.
“I thought it would be nice to have an exhibition with a political theme during a presidential election year,” Stokes said. She also added that the exhibit was “visually dynamic, but at the same time with an interesting topic,” which she hoped would attract students who usually don’t visit the gallery.
The collection shows posters from Latin American countries like Cuba, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Spain and Chile. The posters were lent by the University of New Mexico and came from three different collections.
Cuba, a prime example of a convulsive country during those transformative years, is heavily portrayed in the exhibit. Many of the posters relate to Fidel Castro and the two years of guerrilla warfare that followed his rise to power in 1959.
Spanish professor Maria Lee-Lopez was surprised to see that the majority of the posters were from Cuba, being Cuban herself. She said she never expected to see something like this so far from Cuba.
“I remember in the ‘70s and ‘80s growing up seeing these posters,” Lee-Lopez said. “In those years, Cuba gave a great relevance to the creation of these political and cultural posters. There were teams assigned to their design,” Lee-Lopez said.
Lee-Lopez mentioned that the people who designed these posters were real Cuban artists. “The political and cultural posters, particularly the cinematographic ones, have a great artistic value and they were a strong way to express ideas,” Lee-Lopez said.
Clark student Xaalan Dolence was attracted by the variety of colors and images while she was walking by the gallery.
“I like how the posters represent different themes with different styles of images,” said Dalence, who has taken two art classes at Clark. She mentioned that she enjoyed figuring out the message from the poster’s context. She suggested that it would be helpful if there were plaques with translations to help people understand the pictures.
Kayla Beard, another Clark student, said that she was attracted to the exhibit more for the shapes, images and color that the posters’ messages. “I took two graphic design classes in high school, and I enjoy this from that perspective,” Beard said.
“This exposition has a great visual and historical value for graphic design students,” Stokes said. She also mentioned this collection could be interesting for those studying art, photography, Spanish, history and political science.
For Lee-Lopez, this is a good opportunity for students, staff and community members to see a piece of history firsthand. She said it was a chance to witness fragments of history during a period in time when the world was reconfiguring towards new paradigms and a new overall way of life.
“I think everyone can learn something from this exhibition,” Lee-Lopez said. “All the posters have very eloquent graphics where the images and the text together transmit a message.”