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.