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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » August 28, 2015
Exhibitions
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Photomontage and Circus Posters
August 28, 2015   
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New exhibitions at the Wilanów Poster Museum in Warsaw explore the use of photomontage in modernist poster design and showcase a designer who took the circus poster to new heights.

Socialist-realist propaganda posters with slogans such as ”Let’s Build Roads So There Are No Bad Ones!” are among items on show in Between Fiction and Reality, an exhibition of Polish modernist photomontage from 1924 to 1964. The exhibition consists of around 130 posters and 60 book and magazine covers, press illustrations and fliers.

Exhibition curator Aleksandra Oleksiak says that photomontage was for years used as an information, propaganda and advertising tool as well as to promote art. Speaking of the technique’s beginnings in the 1920s, Oleksiak adds that photomontage absorbed ideas voiced by German dadaists and Soviet constructivists. “Soon after this artistic novelty found its way into work by Soviet and German graphic artists, Polish constructivists started using it as well,” says Oleksiak.

The first Polish artist to use photomontage was Mieczysław Szczuka. Visitors to the Wilanów Poster Museum can see issues of the avant-garde magazine Blok that Szczuka edited and illustrated in 1924-26, along with covers he designed for books of poems by his contemporaries Anatol Stern, Bruno Jasieński and Władysław Broniewski.

Combining words and images, photomontage was a convenient way to get a political message across, a fact that is highlighted in the exhibition. After a military coup in Poland in May 1926, Szczuka and architect and designer Teresa Żarnower signed an appeal in August that year calling for the release of political prisoners. Szczuka also designed prints (“We demand amnesty for political prisoners”) that featured Żarnower’s first political photomontage projects (“Give us back our fathers and mothers.”)

Visitors to the museum can also see work by Jan Maria Brzeski, who in the early 1930s started working for weekly magazines published by the Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny press corporation. One of Brzeski’s designs on show is a cover of the magazine As (Ace), of which he was artistic director.

The exhibition also includes several occupational health and safety posters published by the Polish Institute of Social Affairs in 1931-1939 and postwar socialist-realist propaganda and movie posters. Carrying a powerful message, they were designed by the likes of Tadeusz Trepkowski, Mieczysław Berman and Włodzimierz Zakrzewski.

According to Oleksiak, poster designers adopted the distinctive language of photomontage with all its brevity and surprising ideas. “Masters of the Polish poster refined this language and we are showing this in culture-related posters designed in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Wojciech Fangor, Roman Cie¶lewicz and others,” says Oleksiak.

Until Sept. 20 at the New Gallery


The other exhibition at the Wilanów Poster Museum showcases Hubert Hilscher (1924-1999), famous for posters he designed for circuses.

The exhibition features a large collection of posters Hilscher designed from the 1950s until the end of the 20th century, in addition to book illustrations, typographic projects and graphics.

Hilscher was one of Poland’s most prominent graphic designers and made a significant contribution to contemporary Polish graphic design. His work stands out with vibrant colors, humor and vitality, but Hilscher nevertheless exercised a lot of restraint and balance in the techniques he chose for his work.

Wilanów Poster Museum curator Mariusz Knorowski says that posters and other images by Hilscher reveal his fondness for neat, geometrical forms and objective information. “Hilscher provoked viewers with the form he gave to circus animals, making them flirt with audiences through bizarre personas and decorative poses,” says Knorowski.

Until Sept. 20, Main Gallery
Wilanów Poster Museum; 10/16 Stanisława Kostki Potockiego St., Warsaw
www.postermuseum.pl
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