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Wednesday October 26, 2016
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Graphic Combat at EMU



Unlike the original viewers of the 130 posters, leaflets, and postcards on display, Ann Arborites aren't being urged to buy war bonds, either, although former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill unveiled the Patriot Bond — the first war bond issued since World War II — on December 11, 2001, to zero fanfare. To a twenty-first-century viewer, this exhibit raises thought-provoking questions about cultural changes regarding state ad campaigns for war.

Many of the twenty or so boldly designed posters, blazing in yellow, red, and black, have strong, simple designs in line with the elemental themes: loyalty, rightness of the (Axis or Allied) cause, evilness of adversaries.

One shows a simian hand inserting a jigsaw puzzle piece labeled "England" into a puzzle whose pieces bear the words "Convoy sails for . . . tonight." The poster warns, "Bits of careless talk are pieced together by the enemy."

The theme is echoed on an Italian postcard showing a soldier in uniform chatting with a friend at a cafe. A sinister man at an adjacent table peers over his newspaper, all ears. "Loose lips might sink ships," warns another poster. One imagines entire nations loyally keeping mum, a silence hard to imagine in these days of satellite uplinks, cell phones, and a more cynical citizenry.

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University of Michigan Museum of Arts