Thursday, March 03, 2011

Anne Lykes—Response to Propaganda Poster Collection


Visiting the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Museum is a bit like finding yourself in the basement of an old friend, albeit one who happens to be an extensive poster and print collector.  Entered through a somewhat shabby side door and rickety staircase, the museum is housed in a nondescript apartment building, one that I certainly never would have found on my own, and upon our arrival Yang Pei Ming, the founder, director and collector, meets us and walks our group through the rooms, chatting away as if we were old friends. 


The vast array of posters, which date from 1949 onwards, chronicle important events, both within China and throughout the world.  Styles vary, from more traditional-looking Chinese paintings to intricate woodcuts and futuristic cityscapes.  Many of the bold, streamlined designs bring to mind similar imagines in American propaganda posters, such as those of Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam.  A main difference I notice, however, is the different uses of color.  American propaganda posters by and large use a predominantly red, white and blue palette, while these posters were very colorful and no one hue stood out more than the rest.  A favorite poster of mine was one that showed a bold profile of Castro, with his hundreds of troops lining up behind him.  The poster's simple yet confident style seems to character Castro well, and the history behind the image—that of China's support of Cuba—is an interesting and perhaps somewhat overlooked moment in time. 


Ultimately, the poster collection captures sentiments and events that might otherwise be forgotten to history.  From the posters to the extensive Daizibao pieces, the museum showcases important artifacts from the not so distant past. 

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