Norton Museum of Art

West Palm Beach, Florida

(561) 832-5196


Posters American Style

August 29 - October 25, 1998


A landmark exhibition of compelling subject, Posters American Style, assembles posters that speak to today' s audience of cultural concerns and a need for action, The exhibition, organized by The National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, will examine how posters act as invitations to the public and will include posters that have employed innovative and accomplished pictorial means to invite the American public to engage in a wide variety of events and issues.

American posters of the last 100 years are a tour de force of dazzling graphic design that have served diverse purposes -- from commerce to social issues, to patriotic ideals and politics, to leisure activities and entertainment. Whatever their message, their impact is immediate and unmistakable, a sophisticated blend of word and image, often ablaze with color.

Posters are also an entertaining and thought-provoking window on the last century of American history. In one way or another, all the things Americans care about have found their way onto posters. "Uncle Sam Needs You," "Save the Planet," and the "The Wrath of Grapes -- Join the Boycott.. .Again" -- catchy phrases that respond through our history, all became a part of our collective consciousness through posters.

Surprisingly, until now, this powerful and appealing material, which straddles an imaginary line between commercial and fine art, has not been explored in a major Museum exhibition. Although there has been an increase in the last twenty years in poster scholarship, collecting, and exhibitions, none of these "retrospectives" have focused exclusively on American posters.

This important suwey begins with circus posters and concurrent literary posters of the 1890s in the singular style created by Will Bradley and Edward Pensfield and ends with the strong revival of posters of today by artists such as Paul Rand and Milton Glaser. Between these points, Posters American Style charts the adaptation of the poster to serve national and local politics, the Golden Age of American advertising, and the World War I preparedness, Liberty Loan campaigns of the U.S. Division of Pictorial Publicity headed by Charles Dana Gibson, and 1960s rock posters.

Works by some of the best-known American graphic designers and artists such as Ivan Chermayeff, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Ben Shahn, and Rockwell Kent are included as are outstanding posters by less known artists whose work has rarely been exhibited.

From top to bottom: James Montgomery Flagg, I Want You for the U.S. Army, 1917, chromolithograph, 39 1/2 x 29 1/8 inches, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Barry and Melissa Vilkin; Norman Rockwell, Save Freedom of Speech, 1943, color lithograph, 56 x 48 inches, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift from the Steven L. Block Collection; Unidentified Postermaker, Barnum & Bailey Baseball Elephants, 1913, Cincinnati Art Museum; J. Howard Miller, We Can Do It!, c. 1942, photolithograph, 22 x 17 inches, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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