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click to enlarge Prefab
  • Prefab

Revolucin! Cuban Poster Art
Lincoln Cushing
Chronicle Books, San Francisco $19.95/paperback

As far as coffee-table books go, you can hardly go wrong with Chronicle Books' fine selection of affordable, full-color volumes that tend to glorify frequently forgotten realms of pop culture. The recently released Revolucin! Cuban Poster Art is a beauty. With nearly 150 posters that range from commemorations of the revolution, public service reminders, sports and culture to outright propaganda, the book is a nice look into pop art as a vehicle for state-sponsored public information dissemination from 1964 to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"Impressive as they are as artistic artifacts, their deeper value lies in their ability to help us understand the Cuba of this period," notes author and compiler Lincoln Cushing in his introduction.

What makes this book particularly interesting is that while pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were using pop to criticize the superficiality of capitalist culture, Cuban artists were using the style to help build a new kind of society in which visual information was quickly and easily understood. "The noncommercial mass poster was the direct fruit of the revolution, a conscious application of art in the service of social improvement," adds Cushing. The fact that Cuba is small and that the posters were easy to reproduce and distribute made them the perfect media for a country trying to live out the ideals of communist egalitarianism.

The book has a nice introduction with a scholarly, yet concise, history of the Cuban poster period and its role in the complex recent history of Cuba.

click to enlarge Revolucin! Cuban Poster Art
  • Revolucin! Cuban Poster Art

-- Noel Black

Prefab
Allison Arieff and Bryan Burkhart
Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah $39.95/hardcover?

Forget about double-wides. As affordable housing gets further out of reach for the average earthling, architects and designers are responding with a whole new approach and look to the prefabricated home, and Prefab is an excellent illustrated guide to this revolution in modular housing.

Beginning with an introduction to the history of mass-produced housing, the book traces both the philosophical and practical approaches to the prefab from early modernist designs to the present-day concepts that are either in, or poised to be in, production in the near future.

While some have the look of glorified motor homes with modern interiors (see "Summer House" and the "LV House"), others like the Ikea-designed "Bo Klok" (live smart) apartment complex are surprisingly homey and inconspicuously bland. Some of the homes are downright spectacular like "FRED," a customizable, building-block style home designed by Austrian architect Oskar Leo Kaufmann that can be assembled in two hours once it's on site.

Lots of great photos and commentary -- a gorgeous look at the future of our abodes.

-- Noel Black

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