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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Topical poster of Solidarity

An exhibit of Polish independent poster of the 1980s “Art of Sign” opens in Kyiv-based gallery “Maisternia,” which is located in the Central House of Artist in Lvivska Square
18 February, 2014 - 10:23

Polish poster of the 20th century is a significant phenomenon in all-European context at the least, and the 1980s are a special page in its history. At that time Polish artists combined the tendencies of simplicity and straightforwardness of mass art of the second part of the century and the heritage of avant-garde experiments of the previous period. The aesthetic fusion that was received as a result became a powerful force of propaganda in the crisis decade in the history of the country. It will be recalled: the 1980s in Poland started with strikes, clashes, dynamic development of various oppositional, conditionally “anti-Soviet” movements (People’s Republic of Poland, although it was an independent state, remained however under severe control of the USSR), uprising of Solidarity. Later the power introduced the martial law, and in 1989 the nationwide roundtable took place, which provided the possibility for transition to democracy and free elections in June of the same year. Should we say how important and popular was the political and social gesture in art under those circumstances?

So, a tear appeared on the face of Black Madonna of Czestochowa (Piotr Mlodozeniec), cardiogram was depicted in the colors of the national flag (Krzysztof Baran), endless cross variations, Pawel Udorowiecki’s flag, which gradually gets out of the bloody red color and becomes the Polish white-and-red flag, or the dates of the acutest manifestations of Communist terror written in arithmetic column (Jan Bokiewicz). After all, the well-known logotype of Solidarity created by Jerzy Janiszewski. The exhibit as well showcases the posters by Czeslaw Bielecki, Andrzej Budek, Jacek Cwikla, Katarzyna Dobrowolska, Eugeniusz Get-Stankiewicz, Krystyna Janiszewska, Roman Kalarus, Alexander Krol, Mark Lewandowski, Marcin Mroszczak, Tomasz Sarnecki, Eugeniusz Skorwider, Karol Sliwka, Henryk Tomaszewski, Michal Wieckowski, Waldemar Wojciechowski.

Apparently, the social context and thematic of Polish posters created 30 years ago are especially resounding in present-day Ukraine, full of dramatic and grandiose events.

“The smoke of freedom we can smell in Kyiv today was without doubt felt in Poland in the days these posters were created,” director of Polish Institute in Kyiv (Polish co-organizer of the event) Yaroslaw GODUN, who was present at the exhibit’s opening, said. “Therefore the exhibit is extremely topical and well-timed. However, today the poster in the way it existed in those days is less present in public space.”

Of course, we cannot fully agree with the last thesis. It would be enough to turn to the propaganda materials present in the Maidan and its regional branches. Political placard most actively draws attention during the elections, but it does not vanish beyond them, especially in the time of various protest campaigns. However, it has undergone essential transformations in electronic mass media.

By the way, during the opening it turned out that in the near future the students of the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture are going to show their posters dedicated to current events in Ukraine.

The Polish exhibit will be open in Maisternia till February 13. And on February 14 it will be replaced by the exposition of Ukrainian posters created as well in the 1980s, which are much less known, thus need additional attention and reconsideration.

By Oleh KOTSAREV. Photo replicas courtesy of the author