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June 2012: Original Mai 68 Posters

June’s monthly exhibition includes over 100 rare and original posters produced during the Mai 68 movement in France. Together they represent one of the most potent and striking graphic revolutions in history - an example of art at the service of revolution. These posters can be considered as the forerunners of todays street art movement currently taking the world by storm.

All these posters were produced during the events of May and June in Paris and were plastered over the walls of Paris, icons of this political moment and the struggles faced by students and workers alike. The main themes addressed in the posters include the denouncement of De Gaulle and opposition to parliament, opposition to police power, criticism of capitalism, defense of people power, unity between students and workers, and support of the strikers across France.

The first studio to emerge was formed at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, the lithography studio there was occupied on the 16th of May and rechristened the ‘Atelier Populaire’. Poster studios were also formed at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, and the Ecole de Medecine among others. Many posters bear the stamps of these various studios as the posters were a collective effort and the artists remained anonymous in a rebuttal to bourgeois capitalist values. Ideas and slogans for posters were presented each day at a general assembly where workers, students and artists analysed the key political events they wanted to address and voted on how best the idea could be put over in graphic form.

The majority of the designs are screenprinted, as this was the fastest and most efficient way to produce large numbers of posters for immediate dissemination in the streets. Stencil, litho and offset was also used though. Many were printed on old newspaper paper from striking printers who also provided ink to support the movement. Under the cover of night volunteers would sneak out of the studios with the posters and paste them up over the walls of the Latin quarter ready for the new day ahead.

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(TARGET), Screenprint in green ink, 1968.
'VERMINE FASCISTE ACTION CIVIQUE', Screenprint (green/grey), 1968.
'JE PARTICIPE, TU PARTICIPES...', Screenprint, 1968.
(CROSS), Screenprint, 1968.
'SALAIRES LEGERS CHARS LOURDS' (Black), Screenprint, 1968.
(De Gaulle doing Fascist Salute), Screenprint, 1968.
'UNIVERSITE POPULAIRE', Screenprint, 1968.
'LA BASE CONTINUE LE COMBAT', Screenprint, 1968.
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