Truth Justice and the American Way: Images of an Ideal Nation

April 9 – May 16

/ 1998

By their very nature posters are ephemeral, cheap, and of the moment. They may announce an event, rally suporters to a cause, or convey information concisely. The poster form is a classic problem of graphic design: because it is limited in size and will be seen briefly, image and text must work together to convey the message as effectively as possible. Posters are not subtle, or a good medium for elaborately developed ideas, but they can deliver a visceral emotional impact.

Given their aptness for epigraphic, even polemical content, it is not surprising that posters that address political or social issues often do so in terms of an ideal, either specific (the tenets of the Bill of Rights, for example) or general (killing is wrong). Nor is it surprising that movements grounded in idealism – the labor movement , the civil rights movement- should so often make use of the poster form to advance their causes. The posters in this exhibition make clear that at various times “ideals” may be invoked by different sides around a given issue: often the government on the one hand, resistance or protest movements on the other.