The Broadside in the Art Realm by Mirsha Heredia
Here at Intersection, we are spoiled with an insanely talented and brilliant cast of interns. We love that they come in with their own passions and ideas and enhance our work in all kinds of ways. Mirsha Heredia is one of these bright individuals who has been a valuable energy in our visual arts & gallery programs. She sunk into the Broadsides Attractions | Vanquished Terrains work with wide eyes and we’re proud to have her share some insights on her own research on the legacy of these ephemeral pieces of history.
When I first began researching the history of broadsides for Kevin Chen I quickly concluded that they were simply archaic posters that were slowly becoming obsolete. Soon after, though, I realized that graphic design and advertising owe much of their aesthetics to the rich legacy of the broadside. Broadsides are definitely not as popular today, but their impact on the literary and art worlds is still incredibly significant.
As printing technologies and public spaces evolve, the broadside struggles to remain relevant. Broadsides were originally created to publicize news and events through few images and densely packed text, but often also involved cartoons, poems and lyrics. Prior to the magazine era, the broadside was the most popular type of advertisement. Before paperbacks, pocket books, pamphlets and the Internet there was the broadside,but unlike these other visual forms of advertising, the broadside was intended to be discarded almost as quickly as it took to produce.
Because of their practical use and textual element, broadsides were never intended to rise to the level of fine art. In the late 19th century, however, Art Nouveau artists first appropriated the broadside to market goods and to promote theatrical entertainment, but later transformed it into an affordable, collectible art form. Henry Van De Velde and Alphonse Mucha brought prestige to the broadside and essentially elevated it to the level of fine art by incorporating dynamic, colorful illustrations along with minimal text. What began as largely text-based, simple sheets of paper evolved into highly sophisticated works of art.
Even before the computer age, the broadside returned to its original simplicity in a sense. During the mid-20th century, the broadside became more graphic and reductive; the Constructivists and Minimalists’ work being perfect examples. The broadband did not become as plain and definitely not as unsophisticated as it was historically, but its aesthetic moved away from embellishment and more towards bold, pure, minimal forms.
As urban and public spaces become more dense, space becomes less available for displaying broadsides. Although not obsolete, broadsides are much less prevalent today because posters, graphic design, film, television and the Internet constantly compete with them for public space. Broadside Attractions: Vanquished Terrains commemorates the history of printed materials and plays with the literary and visual elements of the broadside.
Mirsha Heredia is a Junior at California College of the Arts, where she is majoring in Visual Studies. Originally from Southern California, Mirsha has studied in Santa Barbara and New York and now lives in Oakland. She is currently a Gallery and Education intern at Intersection for the Arts and also contributes to outreach and the online shop. She works with ceramics, jewelry, sculpture and metals, and enjoys sewing, crafting, knitting and crocheting. Mirsha loves the outdoors and traveling and spends her free time hiking, camping and swimming. While a maker, Mirsha also has a passion for writing, theory and art history. Mirsha comes to Intersection for the Arts through the Community Student Fellows Program at The Center for Art and Public Life at CCA.