One of the lesser-known delights of the New England Festival of Ibero-American Cinema taking place in New Haven is “Posters from an Island,” a month-long exhibit of Cuban movie posters on view at the New Haven Free Public Library through Oct. 9. The show, guest curated by Leonel Limonte, a Florida-based neurologist and Cuban-American film scholar, features the work of brilliant graphic designers like Nelson Ponce and Paul Valdes Raupa, who are all but unknown to Americans. The 23 posters on view are feasts of color, creative energy and graphic innovation that undermine the notion that Cuba under Castro is all about repression, bleakness, terror and all the other bits of vilification regularly trumpeted on Fox News. In fact, just seeing these posters all in one room — in the Azoth Gallery on the lower level of the library — is all the more reason to normalize relations with the island we’ve mindlessly shunned for more than half a century.
The showstopper is Nelson Ponce’s poster for A Clockwork Orange (La Naranja Mecanica). Though the original British and American graphics for the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film were eye-catching and memorable, Ponce’s art actually focuses on the theme of the book by Anthony Burgess that was the source of the film (and, having just reread it myself, holds up 40 years later). Other posters on view included the Cuban versions of Rebel Without a Cause and The Silence of the Lambs.
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Azoth Gallery, Sara Vega, the collections curator at the Cinematographic Institute of Cuba, will talk about how the island’s artists use their talents to promote Cuban cinema. The island’s poster arts peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, when most of these posters were made, but a resurgence in interest and youthful energy — not to mention, the tentative and periodic thaws in relations between Cuba and the rest of North America — has spawned a bit of a renaissance.
New Haven Free Public Library, Azoth Gallery, 133 Elm Street (on the Green), New Haven. Gallery Hours: Mon., 12-8 p.m., Tues., Wed., Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 10-5 p.m., Sun., closed. For more information, contact Johnes Ruta, Azoth Gallery director, (203) 387-4933, email@example.com, or visit the website azothgallery.com.