Véronique Vienne | Report

The Cold War Politics of Push Pin

A recent conference in Paris, presented under the auspices of the prestigious EHESS, the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, brought together graphic designers known since the sixties for their stalwart left wing tendencies. Among the speakers were Hector Villaverde from Cuba, and Lies Ros, a founding partner of Wild Plakken, the radical Dutch collective.

Seymour Chwast had been invited—his 1967 “End Bad Breath” antiwar poster his admission ticket to what was a club of diehard communists. However, he declined the invitation and it fell to me to explain that Push Pin Studio was not, in fact, a hot bed of steadfast leftist revolutionaries.

Not wanting to disappoint my French audience, I played up the most seditious facet of Push Pin I could come up with: its fervid anti-modernist stance. In truth, Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser had bravely defied numbing Cold War aesthetics. Their whimsical illustrations and jolly typography had been a slap in the face of the less-is-more doctrine of the elitist MoMA crowd. They had been rebels with a cause, not unlike the Cuban and Dutch designers whose pugnacious posters had managed to break free from the grim ideological mid-century rhetoric. 

Below: Posters by Seymour Chwast (1967) and Hector Villaverde (1968)

Below: Three Wild Plakken posters from the 1980s

Below: Cuban posters from the 1970s

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