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Much has been made about the graffiti on show in Bogota, and indeed I am party to this, but for once we should take a look at graffiti art’s impoverished sibling, Poster Art. Bogota, Medellin, Cali and all of Colombia’s major cities are layered the stuff, harking back to a period before online marketing and nonsensical brain rot television. And while much of this poster advertising is unsightly and left to the mercy of the elements, no doubt, somewhere down the line we’ll reflect on this art form in a retrospective in the MaMBo and Bogota’s hipsters will gush from behind thick rimmed glasses.
My interest in Bogota’s poster art stems back a ways and the history is particularly convoluted. In an ill-advised move one summer my parents left me to fend for myself in London. I think I was seventeen years of age or thereabouts and had returned early from toiling in the Canadian Rockies. The benefits of a Canadian father you say, put to work from a young age…I digress. Anyway, on a strictly limited budget so that booze and other vices would not be available to me, I was left alone in a big apartment in the big city. After falling prey to the obvious pitfalls of teenage independence and rebellion and having worn out invitations at all my friends’ homes I started looking to find ways of filling my days. Lo and behold, there was a Poster Art exhibition on at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
And while now in London, poster art – correct me if I’m wrong – seems limited to publicizing the latest Top 10 wonder in the charts, here in Bogota it still bears a radio theme wherein the information should reach the masses. Be it sitting in a traffic jam along the Carrera 7 in a bus or taxi, wandering through the Candelaria, around the Macarena or beyond, poster publicity is everywhere.
Some of this poster art is purely advertorial, promoting the next “parranda vallenata” or Bruno Mars single, others for salsa concerts, there are even posters to publicize those who design, print and then put up the posters. But, keep an eye out, just as you would for interesting graffiti, for the curious and highly politicized posters.
You’ll find posters hollering in rage against various Free Trade Agreements, in opposition to bull fighting, remembering “disappeared people” or announcing the next protest march. These can be eye-catching, informative and very interesting from a cultural and historical perspective.