The Center for the Study of Political Graphics

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.

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The Center for
the Study of Political Graphics

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