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Poster Art From The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema
Exhibit / Talk / Sale, Thursday, Friday, March 7, 8

by Frank Rudy Schaeffer

The popularity of Mexican cinema in Latin America during the 1930’s to 1950’s – the era of El Cine de Oro- was second only to Hollywoood’s. Groundbreaking directors like Fernando de Fuentes and Luis Bunel and legendary stars including Dolores del Rio, Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, Tito Guizar and Cantiflas, who had a home in San Miguel, emerged as international superstars and are icons today. The spectacularly eye-catching posters for these films were as seductive and artistic as the films. Unlike today’s mass-produced movie posters, these posters were lithographed and feature painting, photo montage and illustration by gifted artists, but sadly few have survived.

I was introduced to this unique art form in Austin, Texas, during a slow road trip across the United States. There, on Congress Street, I stepped into a Mexican memorabilia store. Along with various trinkets and the obligatory Day of the Dead scenes, they had four linen-backed Mexican movie posters for sale. I was visually thunderstruck. They were titillating, approachable and in your face. They reminded me of the pulp fiction paperback covers from the 1950's.

In every house we lived in my father had a study where he chain-smoked unfiltered Pall Malls, and did what every good German does, brood and think deep thoughts. If you entered, you suffered the angst of over-education. It was a book-lined room in which he could check, cross-reference and prove anything he wanted to, pre-Google as it was. The bottom shelf had the good stuff: pulp paperbacks, curvaceous women bursting out of their clothes, salty men in blue jeans, a cigarette dangling out of mouths, a world of sex, drugs and Bing Crosby. That's where you'd find me, God's little acre of unrequited desires.

So, there, in Austin, I bought a gorgeous poster for a 1955 film, Una Mujer en la Calle (A Woman of the Streets) and promptly forgot about it. Still, somewhere in me a spark was ignited. And now, 800 hundred or so posters later, here I am in lovely San Miguel and for the first time I am going to share and sell some of my collection.

Mine is a remarkable collection given that few posters have survived from this era. The estimated print count for an average movie poster from the late 30s in Mexico was only 500 copies. Then, posters were printed on poor quality newsprint, which, when not carefully preserved, would rapidly deteriorate. Additionally, much of the collateral behind Mexican films of the era simply got discarded after a film’s run. This is a fragile art form. The posters from this period were never meant to be saved and savored. They were meant to be used and then trashed, a form of disposable art.

When do you realize you are a collector? What is the tipping point from acquiring to collecting? There's a point where your passion intersects with the reality of what you have. Being a collector entails a responsibility and respect for the art form. You realize that you are helping to preserve something unique. I only realized that I was a collector when I started to become much more discerning and started to notice the details of this unique Mexican form of art. Mexico is a land full of contradictions that are wonderfully displayed in these posters.

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Exhibit / Sale of Poster Art From The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema 1936-1956,
with illustrated talk by Frank Rudy Schaeffer

Thursday, Friday, March 7, 8, 6-8pm
Galeria San Francisco, La Fabrica Aurora 3E
$200
reservations:  415-152-6699, galeriasanfranciscosma@gmail.com

Galeria San Francisco will exhibit 20 vintage posters from a private collection owned and curated by Frank Rudy Schaeffer, who has amassed more than 800 posters, one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.

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Frank Schaeffer (“Rudy”) is a retired architect and teacher. He was born in Munich and came to the U.S. at the age of four.

He has always been fascinated by design. He started collecting Mexican movie posters from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema (1936-1956) 25 years ago and today has one of the most extensive collections in the world.

He lives in Belmont, MA with his wife Benita Gold, their 16-year old son Mateo and their Goldendoodle Fabio.

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