Polish Poster Art c. 1980's Curated by Mary Buczek
Dec. 16th - Current March 10th - Night of show, 6:30-9pm new artists bi-monthly! IG - @revbillys_artgallery
About the Artist
A page of words about STEEL GRIN: Polish Poster Art c.1980s
by Dan Sutherland
Time travel time: It’s the middle of 1989. The Berlin Wall was still standing. The major communication systems were print, broadcast and film. There was no civilian internet. None. Poland and everything between the farmland west of Berlin to the fishing water of Alaska was communist. My wife Mary Buczek and I decided to go to Poland on our honeymoon. Who does that? Who goes to Poland on their honeymoon? Let’s ask that a different way. Who would not want to see what life under the Reds was really like? The trip would be complicated. To be there – Poland mid-1989 – was akin to being in
S E Asia in the winter of 1974-75. There was that feel. The feel before real change. Let me provide you with one example of what life was like. Mary and I stayed with her dad’s brother in Gdansk. At night, looking out at the city from high rise tract housing, in that rebuilt port, the only human-made illumination were these devices: streetlights, the light illuminating the sign for ORBIS, the national travel agency and atop the Gdansk Cathedral, five fluorescent tubes used to make the sign of the cross. That was it. No ads. No billboards. No dish networks. There were the posters. That was the quotidian experience. There was little or no media. But then there were the posters.
The posters were a communication system in and of themselves. They were designed, produced and circulated in Poland for general consumption. The posters would have a direct message. That would be the what, where and when of a show. Then there was the indirect message. That was where the subtext catapulted through the layers of disinformation. For these posters the subtext came through the cracking derma of Soviet politics. The message was simple. Here: the system is not working. It is torturous and it is a distortion of the human spirit. The visual images of the posters are the zeitgeist of that time in Poland. They show the human spirit. The images of the posters seem to say, ‘We are alive. We are like you; human, frail, emotional and spiritual. Understand us.’
These posters, promoting theatre, film, events and exhibitions were ephemera. They were meant to last all of a week or so. Then another poster would be glued on top of it. And so on until a great rain would come and the whole complex would come down in a gooey bricolage. Still, through press over runs many of the original posters were sent to warehouses and waited. Perhaps for a return of the film or a remount of the original play.
Taken as a whole, these posters are a collective middle finger to Kremlin and state approved images. The posters say ENOUGH! The artists are saying they had it with an existence of duplicity under Mother Russia. These posters reveal little or no barrier between the message and the consumer. There is an emotional purity to these posters that confounds the polysyllabic lingo of the party apparatchik. The art and subject matter are not bromides or calmatives. These posters are what happens when you let the creatives near the means of production. These posters are ‘it’ for a certain time period in Poland. To be sure they represent a time and place. More, they represent a collective national consciousness. Consume them to enjoy. Consume to learn. Consume them to remember.