On the B Side
The intensification of the Vietnam - American War in the mid 1960’s, led to a critical shortage of paper and materials for painting. Paper was in such short supply that artists were compelled to become more resourceful than ever, using virtually any paper they could lay their hands on. This included re-cycling the reverse side of pre-printed Russian, Eastern European, and North Korean propaganda posters, as well as maps, charts, and almost anything else deemed suitable enough to paint on.
The following works that appear on the reverse side of some of the Vietnamese propaganda posters are as fascinatingly a disparate group of images as one could imagine. There is a poster of Lenin, one for a Chopin festival, Polish theatrical posters, one for a Czechoslovakian ceramic exhibition dated 1963, and the upper and lower halves of a poster of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who was dethroned after the Cuban missile crisis. Another reverse side is a battle plan. There are also assorted maps, architectural designs for a pagoda, a diary, and some rare oddities assembled by fate or happenstance in unique circumstances.
The first reverse side work above shows a Soviet soldier in a poster that expresses solidarity with North Korea as evidenced by the North Korean flag fluttering beneath the Soviet flag.
The reverse side poster of Lenin above appears to have been reproduced from an original newspaper source.
The North Korean reverse side posters below are productivity incentive works with the final one also depicting tanks and soldiers in action.
‘NORTH KOREAN PROPAGANDA POSTER’
‘NORTH KOREAN PROPAGANDA POSTER’
In this instance, an original Nikita Kruschev poster had been cut into two irregular pieces and the reverse sides used by a prominent Vietnamese artist to produce propaganda posters.
Following are the Vietnamese propaganda posters that appear on the other side of the Kruschev works.
‘SEIZE THE DAY OF TOTAL VICTORY’
On the reverse of the above poster featured in the 'Women Under Arms' gallery we came across an architect's original drawing for a pagoda project.
‘MOZART MUSIC FESTIVAL POSTER 1959 POLAND’
The music and cultural posters from Eastern European countries are interesting.
It certainly appears that Mozart and Chopin were equally as popular behind the Iron Curtain in the ‘Evil Empire’ as they were in the West.
The Chopin poster below appears tom have been endorsed by UNESCO.
‘CHOPIN MUSIC FESTIVAL 1960 POLAND’
'AN ABSTRACT DESIGN FOR A CONTEMPORY MUSIC FESTIVAL', 1963.'
‘POLISH CHILDREN’S THEATER POSTER’
Re - Discovered Vietnamese Originals on the Reverse Side
This interesting pair of domestic Vietnamese reverse side originals remains a mystery, but they could quite possibly be stage designs.
The first poster depicts what appears to be a domestic scene with a white mouse (South Vietnamese Policeman), and a wife or mistress?
In the second work, two men stand together in front of a bar called ‘Bar Victoria’. They are looking at a map or newspaper with a French Noir cinema poster, and two sexy film posters attached to a wall in the backround. Both works make for interesting speculation - perhaps depictions of moral decay in the corrupt South that were then recycled as propaganda posters?
The Polish poster above was designed to promote safety awareness in the work place, It provided the backing for the following Propaganda poster which is signed and dated 1969, from the ‘Victory, Peace and the Revolutionary Spirit’ gallery.
“READY TO GO ANYWHERE TO PROTECT OUR NATION
FROM THE AMERICANS”
A ‘Visit Poland’ travel promotion poster intended for the French tourist market that found its way to Vietnam provided the backing for the following work from the ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail’ gallery, and is dated 1971.
“ UP THE TRUONG SONG TRAIL TO SAVE THE NATION-
SPIRIT FULL OF THE FUTURE”
The following poster and it’s powerful accompanying text depicted as a poster within the poster, pasted to a wall behind the combatants, quotes the patriot, Nguyen Van Hieu.
The reverse side is the original draft drawing for the work and enables us to view the original rough out design and the final work with the modifications that the artist decided to make. This provides a quite rare time-capsule glimpse into part of the process that went into the design and final execution a propaganda poster.
“IF NESSESARY, THE STRUGGLE WILL CONTINUE
TO OUR CHILDREN AND GRAND CHILDREN”
Preliminary sketch for the previous poster
This National Geographic style map of Asia provided the backing for the following attractive poster which depicts a nocturnal female guard on the Ho Chi Minh trail with a convoy of camouflaged trucks winding through a pass in the Truong Son mountains.
PROTECT THE TRAFFIC ARTERIES-EVERY THING FOR THE CAMPAIGN
The poster above has the interesting incomplete image shown following on the reverse side. One can only speculate as to why the artist abandoned the design and flipped the sheet of paper over to began anew.
The image above of Northern soldiers furling the flag was realized on the reverse side of a North Korean Propaganda poster from the 1950’s which has an interesting variety of images covering diverse subjects. Following is the poster in it’s entirety followed by two selected details.
North Korean propaganda poster from the 1950.s
In the above detail of the North Korean poster we see a youngish and beaming ‘beloved leader’ Kim Il –Sung, farther of the current ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-il Framing the photograph are the distinctive nose and fuselage of the Russian built, second world war era prop fighter bomber, the famed Yakovlev ‘Yak-9’, which was still in service, if largely out-dated, by the time of the outbreak of the Korean war.
A second detail of the North Korean propaganda poster shows a North Korean soldier firing a machine pistol and wearing the distinctive Russian military fur hat known as the “Ushanka” and adopted by the North Korean army.
The above poster of a female soldier of the NFL was also worked on the back of the Korean propaganda poster following.
On the reverse side or original side of the above image of a soldier on the trail was a propaganda comic strip in the form of a poster promoting increased agricultural production. Following is the poster followed by a detail.
Comic strip poster promoting increased agricultural production
Detail panel of the previous image
The above poster of a Southern female soldier against the background of the NFL flag and US planes in flames was painted on the reverse side of the following in completed image. The artist was presumably unsatisfied with the way it was turning out so flipped over the sheet of paper to began a new design.
The above is an original poster promoting "wood craft" and was recycled to produce the colourfull and naive image following.
FIRM RIFLE ARM-RESOLUTE –LIBERATE-UNIFY THE NATION
The Polish theater poster above is a print of an original art work that was signed dated 1957,
The following poster from the ‘Women Under Arms’ gallery was painted on the reverse side.
THE SOUTHERN PEOPLE ARE BRAVE AND RESOLVED TO DEFEAT THE AMERICANS EVERYWHERE
-FIERCE IN ATTACK –UNDEFEATABLE
The attractive music festival poster above is also Polish and is dated 1960/1961.
The propaganda poster following was painted on the reverse side.
The interesting image above of an Ethnic tribeswoman and student proudly displaying their party membership papers has a quite unique reverse side consisting of training instructions in how to deploy soldiers and stage a battlefield assault.
The delightful image above was designed for a Polish comedy theater show which appears to be in the vein of Punch and Judy. The equally pugnacious poster following was painted appropriatly for the reverse side.
The attractive reverse side poster above marked an international ceramic exposition held in Prague in 1962, six short years before the ‘Prague Spring’.