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September 26, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

ITALIAN ART DECO: Graphic Design Between the Wars by Steven Heller & Louise Fili (Chronicle Books: $16.95; 133 pp., paperback original). Like their counterparts in the rest of Europe and America, Italian artists created commercial designs during the '20s and '30s that set the standard for modern elegance. But in Italy, Art Deco was strongly linked to politics, as the authors note: "Image was the heart of Fascist politics, and graphic design was its backbone." As one-third of the populace was illiterate, nonverbal imagery provided an effective vehicle for Fascist propaganda--which imbues these graphics with chilling overtones.

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