Ever since the summer of 1975, when I hung a foldout poster from Elton John’s Captain Fantastic album on my bedroom closet door, I have been a sucker for posters. Earlier this month I stumbled upon Puerto Rico Literario, a small gem of a poster art collection at the National Hispanic Culture Center on display until the end of August.

With eye-popping graphics and prices that were manageable on my allowance, posters started my downfall led me to the path of lifelong art appreciation. Viewing this exhibit, with its emphasis on literature and home, made me think about the impact of posters on our lives, or at least, my life.

The first posters I ever set eyes on were luscious images of Hawaii and Hawaiian hula girls. Shellacked onto the back of 18 x 24 inch chalkboards and framed with bits of bamboo cane, these were displayed on every wall of my grandparents' Hawaiian goods store in Rosemead, California. These images are seared into my memory - along with the fragrance of white ginger perfume and the clinking of the seashell necklace display rack that swayed when you ran past it too quickly while playing hide and seek.

Once I was old enough to read, I realized that posters could include words. I have vivid memories of visiting my hippie aunt and uncle, and puzzling out the words of this anti-war poster on the stairway landing. Unfortunately, the poster's message is as needed today as it was then.

As I grew older, my collection of posters was supplemented with freebies from the American Library Association - gifts from the librarians in my family, who didn’t seem to get the difference in middle school cool between a poster listing Caldecott award winners and Tiger Beat magazine mini-posters of Shaun Cassidy and Scott Baio.

At some point in high school, my tastes shifted. I upgraded my 70s and 80s band posters to more sophisticated images, including Will Barnet’s swooping curved lines of “The Reader”, a poster that now graces my teen daughter’s bedroom, and Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which perfectly mirrored my brooding adolescent angst.

These days I’m drawn to mid-twentieth century posters, which is why I liked the exhibit at the NHCC so much. There’s something appealing about the clean lines and direct messages that I find irresistible – from Irene Delgado’s 1946 poster Defiéndalos depicting a mother holding a washbasin and handing a bar of soap to her young daughter as part of a public health campaign to encourage hand washing, to the bold and chunky images of the mother and child shown in Antonio Martorell’s Fuera la marina Yanki de Culebra (American Navy out of Culebra).

Other images celebrate Puerto Rican history, folktales, farming, and literature, including a powerful tricolor poster, Semana de la Biblioteca, that triggered the cascade of memories giving me blog fodder for this post.

If you head over to the NHCC, the poster exhibit is in the old River View Elementary School building, which now houses the History and Literary Arts program, sponsor of this delightful exhibit. The exhibit is free of charge.

Views: 42

Comment by Gemini Goddess on July 21, 2008 at 2:43pm
It is acceptable that I once had a poster of Spud MacKenzie, the Budweiser beer dog? *lol* I don't even remember where I got it from and why I had it up on my wall!
Comment by Barelas Babe on July 21, 2008 at 3:26pm
Acceptable? Hmmm... Forgivable might be more accurate.

We all do stupid things in our youth, right?

And in some cases our tastes mature. Or not.
Comment by Gemini Goddess on July 21, 2008 at 3:42pm
Hahaha...forgivable, yes that is a better word for it! And definitely, I think my tastes have matured (a little)!
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 21, 2008 at 4:18pm
So how old is too old to still have the Farrah Fawcett poster on the wall?
Comment by Barelas Babe on July 21, 2008 at 8:59pm
Rudolfo - I've got the album on my playlist. Whenever I hit a bad patch of writer's block I rotate Better Off Dead, Bitter Fingers, and Curtains.
Comment by LC on July 22, 2008 at 9:12am
Great post Barelas Babe. I'm going to see if I can check out the exhibit this week. My walls were covered with posters when I was in mid school/high school. My tastes in posters varied throughout the years. I went from having posters of wolves and nature scenes to "hot" boys plastered all over. My parents probably thought I was crazy.
Comment by elle on earth on July 22, 2008 at 12:20pm
Dear Ron Da Bomb,
You're too old. But we forgive you & will keep your secret.
The Shaun Cassidy/Leif Garrett Collective
Comment by Barelas Babe on July 23, 2008 at 3:47pm
Kataje - Yes, the images in the Puerto Rico Literario show are really beautiful! Do check out the show if you have a chance - it is small enough that you can see the posters, look at the main exhibit of works by Barela and Gonzales, and then head to La Fonda del Bosque for lunch or brunch with live music. Sundays used to be free days at the NHCC - I think this is still true.

One of the things I appreciate about the old River View school building is I think the state got it right about accessibility - I'm no wheelchair user, but I've done a fair amount of advocacy work in disability, so this is something I look for. Would be curious to see if your assessment matches mine.

And thanks for the USPS link - I hadn't seen that one!


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