Sponsored by The Book Club of California and The Northern California Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America
Sept. 19, 6:00pm-7:15pm Los Angeles/Pacific time
Every movement needs a voice, and ever since Gutenberg systematized the concept of movable type posters have been one of the media of choice for discontents, troublemakers, poets, organizers, and visionaries. Posters have served as the poor person’s pulpit for a very long time in this country. Benjamin Franklin’s network of print shops helped “stick it to the man” before this was even a country. When the rich and powerful control the major media, one could still find someone who knew how to put ink on paper to fire up a provocative and inflammatory message. These early broadsides – a single-sided newspaper sheets, usually (but not exclusively) featuring bold headlines and bold statements – were aptly named after the effect of a full row of cannon fire from a warship. Posters can make an impact.
In the US, there have been several moments when radical posters ruled. They were popular in the movement against slavery in the early 1800s, they were rediscovered in the 1930s when artists were hired by the Federal Arts Project. But after World War II they dropped off the radar for 20 years. The 1950s Cold War chill of McCarthy made such a medium too dangerous, and several paid the price. It may be hard to imagine now, but before 1964, the poster selection was bleak, mostly about travel, movies, or fine art. But four years later the range of subjects and styles had proliferated exponentially. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and revolution could adorn your wall for only a few dollars.
Underground newspapers and comics advanced at the same time, as did radical poetry books and political tracts. This presentation explores the lively alternative West Coast publishing scene of the “long 1960s” and shows how that legacy continues to influence new generations of troublemakers.
An in-person and virtual presentation via Zoom by Lincoln Cushing, archivist and author