This week on Facebook we’re featuring our Polish posters and offering a giveaway contest: for every Polish poster purchased on-line or in the gallery, we will give away, for free, a copy of the exhibition poster that our favourite Polish poster artist Tomasz Walenta designed for a 2014 L’Affichiste exhibition.
Although I’ve written about Polish posters before (here and here), I thought a little refresher course might be a good idea:
“Polish posters of the second half of the 20th century contributed significantly to modern visual culture and museums, collectors and design educators around the world recognize their significance. Known as ‘the Polish school’ of poster design, these works, while stylistically diverse, can be recognized as part of a unified, and ultimately national, approach to poster art that reflected the soul of a population during a long period of repressive governance and political unrest.” (From a great on-line article you can find here).
Another great synopsis of this country-specific artform states (in part) that, “The state Publishing Agency, Wydawnictwo Artystyczno Graficzne (WAG), supported the creation of hundreds of posters each year for cultural events, providing comfortable income for the leading poster artists. In 1966, Poland held the First International Poster Biennial, and, in 1968, the world’s first poster museum was established in Warsaw. By the 1970s, posters were so popular that the government, although still monitoring for subversive content, eased censorship and sponsored design competitions. Winners were awarded prizes and allowed to compete internationally, and poster artists were given solo exhibitions in state-run galleries. Polish poster design was becoming a source of national pride.
CYRK, the First Wave of International Recognition
Poland became an autonomous Communist country in the early 1960s. The Polish agency called ZPR (Zjednoczone Przedsiębiorstwa Rozrywkowe) or United Entertainment Enterprises was placed in charge of improving and modernizing the public image of state-sponsored “Cyrk” (circus) entertainment. Rather than using traditional advertising methods to accomplish that, ZPR commissioned and permitted leading artists to create personal and responsive designs for posters. Without the restriction of having to portray the circus using literal realism, artists were free to express their own interpretations of Cyrk. The style varied by artist, but in general was similar to commercial illustration being done during the 1950s and 1960s in Europe and the United States: playful and in a cartoon-like abstraction, with loose, painterly brushwork or with painted cut paper and collaged textures. Vividly colorful designs reflected a Polish folk-art heritage.
The resulting work received wide exposure through poster competitions that attracted international entries and achieved global recognition in the field of graphic design. Cyrk posters (like most posters) used a simple primary image to send an instant message. Often it was a circus performer, a figure with a prop, or small grouping of figures in a stylized action. Polish artists complemented the images with playful typography or hand lettering integrated into the design, which typically read only the single word, CYRK.” (Source)
“Waldemar Swierzy, who has created more than 1,000 designs, brought a painterly background to poster design which shows in the wide stylistic variety of his early work. As much of the Polish Poster Art in the 1970’s did, Swierzy’s work became very illustrative and let the picture speak for itself. Swierzy’s power conies through clarity and caricature. He has the ability to capture the feel of the subject in one, succinct statement. The bete noire of Polish poster artists Franciszek Starowieyski promoted an elitist quality in his work and carefully maintained the facade of the idiosyncratic artist. That is, wrapped up in his own little world, he created posters that suited his tastes and attitudes. He didn’t mean for everyone to be able to understand his work nor freely read the text.” (Source)
At L’Affichiste we are inordinately fond of Polish posters. We like the old movie posters, we like the new exhibition posters, we like the Swierzy zoo posters … in short, we like it all! We invite you to share our enthusiasm – and we’ll even add to your collection, by giving you (for free!) a poster that we normally sell for $100. What could be better than that??