Wednesday, September 21, 2011

International Poster Exhibition

The first poster I ever hung on my wall was not art—it probably featured Care Bears or a sparkly unicorn—but the first art I ever hung on my wall was a poster. (I think it was Monet’s water lilies.) Posters are great. On the one hand, they make famous works of art (and Lamborghinis) accessible for those of us who can’t afford the real things. But over and above what we’d all recognize as the typical shopping mall offerings, original contemporary posters are a succinct and eye-catching form of artistic expression.

The Seventeenth Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition is currently showing at CSU’s Clara Hatton and Curfman Galleries. Since 1979, CIIPE’s purpose has been to “bring world-class contemporary poster art and artists to CSU students and the wider Fort Collins and Rocky Mountain communities.” This biennial exhibit (every two years, not twice a year; I always have to look that one up) began as the only international poster exhibition in the United States. It is still the only invitational international poster exhibition. Added in 2003, Graphic Responses is a “parallel, digital exhibition of posters,” which is also available for viewing in the Hatton Gallery. All this, and the show remains free and open to the public.


This year’s exhibition features 80 artists from 32 countries. I didn’t know before I went that half of the exhibit is located in the Curfman Gallery in the Student Center. I ran out of time and will have to go back and see those, because what I saw at the Hatton Gallery was amazing. Most of the posters there are what I’ll call “message art”—powerful visual statements about society, politics, war, the environment. Others depict the arts or fun-but-apparently-random events such as the Seattle Aquarium’s Octopus Week.

For me, the CSU Galleries are not quite as accessible as the Lincoln Center or downtown, but they are truly worth the effort. I was impressed by the variety of styles represented in the poster exhibit and amazed at how (in many cases) such simple images can be so evocative. The poster exhibit runs until October 13, and if you go, be sure to ask at the Hatton Gallery desk for the remote control so you can also view Graphic Responses. I was glad I took the time to sit on the bench and scroll through the digital images.

(One word of warning: should you feel the need to sneeze in the Hatton Gallery, be prepared for it to be the loudest, most conspicuous sneeze you’ve ever produced.)

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