Polish Posters 1945-89 / Exhibition at The MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art

The Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries, third floor

Polish Posters 1945-89
May 6–November 30, 2009

The Museum of Modern Art presents Polish Posters 1945–89, an installation drawn from the Museum’s collection of 24 posters from the Cold War era of the Polish Poster School, which attracted international attention and admiration.

Jan Lenica


Jan Lenica, 1928- 2001
Wozzeck (Woyzeck). 1964.
Poster for Warsaw production of the 1914-22 opera by Alban Berg. Offset lithograph. 38 1/2 x 26 1/2″ (97.7 x 67.2 cm).
The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of the artist.
© All rights reserved

Drawing on a rich Central European tradition in graphic arts, designers like Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieślewicz, Jan Lenica, and Franciszek Starowieyski developed a sophisticated visual language characterized by surreal and expressionist tendencies, a bold use of color, and macabre, often satirical humor. Polish posters were generally created to promote cultural events—opera, theatre, films and exhibitions. These posters’ images frequently contained explicit evocations of violence and sexuality and appeared at a time when there was little or no advertising. The Communist state maintained a strict censorship policy and monopolized the commissioning and distribution of all printed media in that period, yet bureaucratic patrons colluded in turning a blind eye to the oblique but powerful critical commentaries contained in many of the posters. On view May 6 through November 30, 2009, the exhibition is organized by Juliet Kinchin, Curator, and Aidan O’Connor, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

Of all the Eastern Bloc countries, Poland maintained the most consistent and broad-based resistance to Soviet control—from the hard-line Stalinist years (1945-53), through the so-called “Thaw” after 1956, to the rise of the “Solidarity” movement (1980-89). The violence that erupted in different parts of the Soviet Bloc in 1956, 1968, and in 1989 was linked to events in Poland. Hostility to the Communist party and the regime was never far below the surface and was easily read into all forms of entertainment. Posters were among the most topical and subversive means through which Polish designers expressed their opposition to the state apparatus.

Tadeuz Trepkowski

Tadeuz Trepkowski, 1914-1954.
Nie! (Never!). 1952.
Lithograph. 39 3/8 x 27 5/8” (100 x 70cm).
The Museum of Modern Art.
Gift of The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund.
© All rights reserved

Mieczyslaw Górowski

Mieczyslaw Górowski, born 1941.
Policja (The Police). 1982.
Poster for play by S?awomira Mro?ka.
Offset lithograph. 32 1/2 x 23 1/8″ (82.5 x 58.7 cm).
The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of the artist.
© All rights reserved

Roman Cieslewicz

Roman Cieslewicz, 1930-1996.
Ksiadz Marek (Friar Marek). 1963.
Poster for production of the 1843 drama by Juliusz S?owacki.
Offset lithograph. 33 5/8 x 23 3/4″ (85.4 x 60.3 cm).
The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of the artist.
© All rights reserved

Examples on view include Tadeuz Trepkowski’s dynamic bomb and building composition for Nie! (Never!) (1952), which captures the memory of the devastation wrought by World War II; Roman Cieślewicz’s Wiezien (The Prisoner) (1962), which contains a figure constrained with an armored shell and suffocating from an eruption of flames and blood, for a production of Luigi Dallapiccola’s opera; Jan Lenica’s Wozzeck (Woyzeck) (1964), which uses a psychedelic aesthetic to convey the psychological torment that resonated in the atmosphere of escalating tension within the Communist Block; and Franciszek Starowieyski’s Lulu (1980), which depicts a hybrid figure comprising a bird’s head and wings with a naked female torso that is simultaneously erotic and macabre. In 1985, Starowieyski was the first Polish artist to have a solo exhibition at MoMA.

    Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art
    Images © All rights reserved


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~ by Stampfli & Turci on May 5, 2009.

One Response to “Polish Posters 1945-89 / Exhibition at The MoMA”

  1. Nice article. Thx!
    Just two little mistakes: it’s Tadeusz Trepkowski (not Tadeuz) and his “Nie!” poster means “No!” (instead of “Never!”).

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