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Hollywood in Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters Promoting U.S. Films

Press Release By Pasadena Museum of California Art

Media Contact: Brianna Smyk, Director of Communication & Editor 626.568.3665 x12 /

Pasadena, CA — Hollywood in Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters Promoting U.S. Films, on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) August 20, 2017–January 7, 2018, assembles approximately 40 Cuban posters publicizing Hollywood films from the 1960s to 2009. Astonishing in their design, stylistic diversity, and artistic skill, these bold and vibrant posters helped create visual literacy among the Cuban population in the decades following the Cuban Revolution. The screenprints go beyond the glossy and celebrity-filled film posters that are ubiquitous in Los Angeles today and reawaken viewers to the nuanced visual signs that inform and shape their worldviews.

Produced by the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) or the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, the posters were part of an initiative of the revolutionary government to develop cultural awareness and consciousness after Fidel Castro and the guerrilla forces overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgenico Batista in 1959. Today, the posters stand independent of the films they represent. Their magnetism and innovative use of design elements continue to spark conversation and understanding about the role of film, culture, art, and politics in Cuba as well as California. Poster designers working during the early years of the Revolution had few material resources and operated in an almost artisanal manner, using the silkscreen technique. While the limited resources imposed by the U.S. embargo inspired many of the design decisions, revolutionary ideals can also be cited as source material. Screenprints created for Cuban audiences to promote iconic American films, such as Modern Times, Singin’ in the Rain, Cabaret, Schindler’s List, and Silence of the Lambs, are in striking contrast to the vast majority of Hollywood posters for the same films, which formulaically feature faces of the movies’ stars. Instead, the imagery depicted often relates to an iconic element or moment in the film, such the umbrella in Singin’ in the Rain. ICAIC posters employ creativity and free expression as well as a variety of art styles, including Art Nouveau, abstraction, Pop, and Op, many of which mirror the American counter-culture of the times.