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Chester County Press

Poster art and history are spotlighted in Oxford

02/18/2019 10:04AM ● By J. Chambless

A vintage circus poster, with the Oxford dates added at the bottom.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Poster design can be an underappreciated art, regarded as mere advertising, with no thought about the work involved in clearly conveying a message in a limited space.

The best parts of the Poster Art Exhibition at the Oxford Arts Alliance through March 8 are the vintage pieces, starting with a broadside to advertise a show at the Oxford Opera House, which once stood on Third Avenue, where the Pizza Hut is now. Admission was 25 cents, with proceeds to benefit the Oxford Public Library, and the designers made sure to use every typeface at their disposal to attract attention.

There's a hand-painted poster by Zane Campbell for a show at Bookplace in Oxford that's as raw and direct as Campbell's art can be. Also fascinating are the five 1940s political cartoons by Oxford area illustrator C.X. Carlson, who was hired by the War Department to create propaganda posters for the war effort. Carlson depicts Hitler as a hulking brute, and in one, he's a surgeon gassing Spain with fascism.

They're definitely of their era, with some interesting work in the textured details, particularly the “Clearing a Path to Victory” poster that promotes military shell production. Carlson's printed poster for war bonds is powerfully red, white and blue, with an unapologetic cry to “Keep these rats out!”

From the Oxford Historical Society archives, there are two 1910 posters for “Base Ball” games, printed by the Oxford Press. The vintage circus posters are eye-catching, with a standard image of an animal overlaid with details of the local Oxford performances.

There are modern posters as well, for Arts Alliance exhibits and last summer's Connective Festival, showing how typography and poster design have changed over the last century. But the vivid colors and more familiar artistic styles of the newer posters draw on roots that are very deep.

The show is a little slice of often overlooked Oxford history, and well worth a visit.

The Poster Art Exhibition continues through March 8 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford), with a closing reception on March 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. Hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit www.oxfordart.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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