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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Weekend Heller: Davis’ Che 50 Years Young

One of the most controversial subway posters to hang in NYC was an advertisement for Evergreen Review. It was a famously searing portrait of Che Guevara, whose likeness was painted in 1968 by American artist Paul Davis. Starting this week it will hang in the space that will contain Poster House, a new museum on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, devoted to the art of the poster.

The installation, second in the series, features Davis’ portrait of Che Guevara for the February 1968 cover of The Evergreen Review, and in posters advertising the issue. It followed Guevara’s death the previous October and was an arresting image of a complex man—physician, author, diplomat, military theorist, committed Marxist and guerrilla leader.

Based on an iconic black-and-white photograph by Alberto Korda, “Davis depicted his subject with intense colors and dark shadows, and raised his subject’s eyes to suggest martyrdom. Encapsulating a spirit of rebellion, it became an emblem of its time, and its appearance in New York elicited strong reactions. Posters across the city were defaced, and on July 26, 1968, the offices of the magazine’s publisher, Grove Press, were bombed, allegedly by anti-Castro Cubans,” states a press release

Poster House’s window installation tracks the 50-year history of this image and its evolution from photograph to one of the most imitated compositions in design, an integral piece of our collective visual language; and the Cuban exile bombing of Grove Press on East 11th Street and the lawsuit Grove publisher Barney Rosset (1922-2012) brought, seven years later, against the CIA for allegedly supporting the bombers.

The installation will remain on view until February 14, 2018.

Poster House 119 West 23rd Street, New York City

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