Worth Seeing: Baby Boom

1191870574The International Poster Gallery on Newbury Street remains one of my favorite places in which to drop in, pick the brains of the staff, flip through everything, and then leave without buying anything (though this pattern was disrupted last week when my wife and I caved and bought a couple of French posters from the ’30s). The posters are often brilliant, striking, accessible, highly stylized, and always very much a product of their time (like this one). I got hooked on the place when they were running this exhibit, and I’ve been coming back since.

They opened a new show last month featuring consumer ad posters from the post-war era, in which both frivolity and a certain manic materialism emerged from the grim carnage of WWII. Here’s a bit from the press release:

The baby boom had a profound impact on society, modern culture and advertising methods. For the first time since the global depression, adults were free to focus on children and the simple things in life. Parents wanted the best for their children, fueling the birth of international consumer brands. Perhaps the best example is Coca-Cola, which created beautiful posters perfectly in tune with their time.

Coca-Cola is best known now for being a skilled ballooner of children, corrupter of grade schools, and buster of foreign unions, but back in the day, their ads were gorgeous and groundbreaking. Check this one out for a taste. This stuff is strangely addictive, effective as both art and advertising. Next time you’re on the Newb, check it out. It runs through November 18. In the meantime, here’s more from the press release.

During this period, technological advances also fueled new consumer markets. In 1957, the first intercontinental jet schedules put world travel within the reach of the masses. This milestone led to an explosion of delightful new advertising campaigns from TWA, BOAC, and Air France among others. One of the finest was David Klein’s rare original printing New York – Fly TWA of 1955, a dazzling abstract view of Times Square.

Transistors put portable radios in the hands of teenagers, and the television became a fixture in living rooms. An elegant Philips poster by Eric from 1961 featuring stereo clock radios and a woman’s gloved hand highlights this category of the exhibition. Also featured is an A.M. Cassandre poster, created for Philips Television in 1951, which reveals the stylistic gulf between the earlier era and the new look as seen in Leupin’s 1964 poster for Swiss Television. Other posters by Villemot, Pintori and Garretto advertise revolutionary advances in refrigerators, office machines and motorbikes.

The triumph of the automobile over the railroads culminated with the funding of the Federal Highway program in the US and rebuilding of Europe after the Second World War. Good roads, cheap gas and inexpensive cars facilitated an increased interest in family oriented activities like skiing. Sascha Maurer’s charming Splitkein Ski poster circa 1955 advertises a new laminated ski, which promised to streamline the learning process and provide a more enjoyable experience for the user.

The exhibition also focuses on two major icons of the period – Audrey Hepburn and James Bond. Hepburn was so immensely popular that her visage spilled over into fine advertising posters like Blizzand raincoats by Rene Gruau in 1965 and Relax for a French Ocean Line company in 1957. Hepburn’s counterpart, the irrepressible James Bond, is portrayed wielding his signature pistol and sly expression in a rare From Russia with Love poster (1964).