I'm a Reagan-loving conservative, but I've got an enormous fondness for communist propaganda art. I went to see Mr Cushing's talk at Black Oak Books in Berkeley on June 30, and his passion for the subject in person was infectious. Certainly, in his brief talk to give some historical context to the posters, many in his audience -- largely Berkeley radicals -- shuffled uncomfortably in their seats when he suggested that "things aren't perfect" in Cuba, but while Mr Cushings general support of the Revolution in Cuba was really quite secondary to his brilliant -- and inspired -- explanation of the history of these fantastic works of art.
The book itself is simply beautiful -- with scores of pictures representing each of the major poster styles produced in Cuba since the Revolution. There is sympathy for the Revolution, but no preachyness about the glory of equally available state-rationed asprin or the easy equality of justice in the tropical gulags.
But the book is only about the revolution to give these art works context. It is a book about the brilliant visual artists who provided the color and design splash to their Communist revolution. Each of the posters is a visual treat -- I especially like the Army Chess Tournament poster (a hand-grenade forming the body of a Knight) and a few of the abstract Vietnamese-solidarity posters.
Mr Cushing has done a fabulous job learning about the authors of the posters and he has made a brilliant first effort to understand and celebrate communist poster art in an increasingly non-communist world.
Once you get beyond the tedious and slavish devotion to French Belle Epoch posters among the poster art chattering class, there are too few great poster books as it is -- even of WW2 propaganda posters -- this clearly ranks among them. And to have it be about such a great and underrepresented area of poster knowledge is doubly terrific.
This is a first rate art book and a first rate history book. And if you like poster art at all, this ought to be on your shelf.