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Posters, and what they have to say about the world around us

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We live in a culture that is very familiar with traditional “art.” Almost anyone can spot a famous Picasso, and we are aware of the fact Leonardo da Vinci was a Renaissance painter. The general appreciation for artists such as these is obviously well deserved, and the continual interest in the arts is clear in popular culture, like movies and books. But how do we go about thinking of non-traditional modes of art? And how often do we stop and think about our present world, and what art has to say about it?

Take the example of posters. The term probably conjures images of advertisements for bands, or celebrities plastered all over dorm room walls. But posters can serve many different functions, including art and social advocacy. After all, the person who sits down to design that art cares about what goes on that poster. I wonder if we took time to examine the work of poster art, we would be amazed to hear what some posters are trying to “say.”

This is the idea behind the 16th Biennial Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition, on display at the CSU University Center for the Arts, with satellite exhibits around town, through December 22. The event, hosted by the Art department at the CSU School of the Arts, displays poster designs from 82 artists from 28 different countries. Showcasing examples of visual communication to an American audience and promoting international understanding through graphic arts, this exhibition is the only one of its kind in the U.S., and it is here at CSU for us to experience.

These poster artists are not simply promoting events or asking you to hire them to fix your computer.  They are advocating for issues from across the globe. As viewers, we have the chance to see what is really going on in the world through visual and graphic interpretation. The honor laureate this year, Majid Abassi, for example, expands our global awareness through the solo exhibition, Persian Variations: An Exhibition of Majid Abbasi’s Book Covers & Poster Designs. Abassi is the first honor laureate from Iran, and he offers his audience a unique view into his Iranian culture.

Lenny Frickman, director of the University Art Museum at Colorado State University, remarked, “The visual ingenuity displayed in the posters is extraordinary as artists take on a number of issues, and come up with myriad visual solutions that are quite astounding in their impact.” And this impact is certainly strong. In a digital age, these posters are a great medium to get a message out. Our vision-centered minds can easily find meaning in an image, and our experience with computers makes digital art more effective than it has ever been.

We all love to look at great art. While we are used to appreciating art, even possibly finding meaning in it, this exhibit show us that there is an entire world of social and cultural issues that we may be unaware of. Not only do we have a chance to expand our view of art, but of the entire world as well. 

Satellite displays, featuring specific historical and geographic subjects, will be hosted at:

  • Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Loveland Museum and Gallery
  • First National Bank Gallery at Colorado State’s Morgan Library
  • Clara Hatton Gallery
  • Directions and Glass galleries in the Visual Arts Building
  • Curfman Gallery at the Lory Student Center

To view an online gallery of posters from the CIIP since 1991, visit