The Center for the Study of Political Graphics

Los Angeles archive of 50,000 political posters, buttons, and bumper stickers


| September 2004


The Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG) is a Los Angeles-based archive of more than 50,000 political posters, buttons, and bumper stickers. The Center's chief function is to assemble its collection into traveling (and rentable) and virtual exhibitions to 'reclaim the power of art to inspire people to action.' Most of the Center's collection consists of post-W.W.II posters -- claimed to be the largest collection of its kind in the U.S. -- but it spans the Russian Revolution to the present.

The CSPG organizes its massive collection into exhibitions as a way of disseminating the images to the public. Exhibition subjects range from race relations to global warming to homelessness. An exhibition of posters related to women's issues, currently titled 'Women Hold Up Half the Sky' toured off and on for more than 15 years from L.A. to Knoxville, Tennessee. A sampling of this and 16 other traveling exhibitions can be viewed online.

The CSPG has five very comprehensive virtual exhibitions online, such as 'Earth, Wind & Solar: International Ecology Posters,' which has twelve separate sections. The Center doesn't offer much description or commentary, but the posters usually speak for themselves.

'Graphics for the Gipper: A Visual Response to CBS and 'The Reagans'' is different. This virtual exhibition of almost 50 posters and a full page of commentary was organized when CBS decided not to air a made-for-TV-movie about the Reagan family for fear of offending some viewers and sponsors. The CSPG's response was an effort to show 'historical proof that Reagan was not universally admired.' Indeed, the artists who created these posters between the 1960s and the 1980s worked as far away as Finland, Germany, and Spain. Closer to home, a poster which shows Reagan in a cowboy outfit titled 'The Fascist Gun in the West' was created by Vic Dinnerstein in Los Angeles to protest Reagan's California gubernatorial bid in 1966. It was resurrected for the presidential campaign in 1980.

The CSPG site also offers posters for sale, a feature which underscores one of the biggest problems with political art today: accessibility. A series of four posters parodying Apple's iPod ad campaign with soldiers bearing rocket launchers and rifles in place of dancers with mp3 players sells for $80, a price that ensures the images will have no place on telephone poles or campus walls. The 'shop' section is of doubtless value for art collectors and graphic designers, but not activists. The CSPG also sells its exhibition catalogs.

Go there>>The Center for the Study of Political Graphics