Red and Black Duotone Che Guevara
La Habana: Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP), 1967. Serigraph on thick stock, with holograph on verso. Edition size of 200. 16 ½ x 21 ¾ in. Very good, with light edgewear and foxing to top edge.
Duotone poster of Che Guevara’s iconic Guerrillero Heroico portrait rendered in red and black stripes; published by the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP) [Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People], a socialist enterprise dedicated to establishing international solidarity between the Cuban people and the world.
The poster was designed by Felix Beltrán, considered the father of the Cuban poster, as he was responsible for the modernist institutional image of the Cuban Revolution for over twenty years. He designed such recognizable pieces as this duo-tone rendition of Alberto Korda’s definitive photograph of the Guerrillero Heroico, and the widely circulated “Libertad para Angela Davis” OSPAAAL poster in technicolor.
Beltrán began his career in graphic design working for the global advertising company McCann-Erickson in New York at age 15; there, he studied under Theodor Adorno and Erich Fromm. By 1962, he returned to Cuba to apply his learning to the Revolution, setting to work the techniques he learned from the U.S. advertising enterprise against itself and for the creation of a revolutionary consciousness and a new mode of popular art; becoming the head graphic designer for the propaganda department of the Communist Party of Cuba in the process. By the 1980s, with the crisis in Cuba arising from dwindling Soviet support, he exiled himself to Mexico (a decision some read as abandonment), where he became a teacher and commercial designer. Beltrán died in December 2022; a retrospective of his career, Felix Beltrán Inteligencia Visual, was posthumously exhibited in the Complutense Art Centre in Madrid in January 2023.
“The poster could circulate in countries where a functionary was not allowed to otherwise speak about the ideas of the [Cuban] revolution.”.