March 8, 2016 – Frederick (“Rick”) Schneider – Polish Posters: Reflecting the Soul of a Nation
Room M 101 (Bark room), 66 Fifth Ave., lobby level
The poster art of Poland has made a significant contribution to international visual culture. In particular, works created after World War 2 through the 1980s, in a genre known as the “Polish school,” are revered by museums of modern art, collectors, and design educators around the world for their illustrative power, daring, and innovation. Yet, these works and the artists who produced them are not well known to the general public. In the aftermath of two world wars, occupation and international economic depression, with shifting borders and the slow reconstruction of bombed cities and under repressive Communist rule, the Polish people struggled to reinstitute cultural events and recreate venues for plays, films, opera, concerts and the circus. To promote these performances, Polish artists painted, collaged and handlettered poster art, devising imaginative, personal interpretations of content and narrative—all while their country experienced deprivation, social upheaval, demonstrations and workers’ strikes. In spite of hostile conditions, Polish posters found their way onto city walls and construction sites that became impromptu galleries of art for ordinary citizens. Using playful, surreal or thought provoking images and a language of visual metaphor, analogy, and culturally recognizable associations, Polish poster artists defied governmental restrictions and censorship to produce work which has come to be recognized as part of a unified and ultimately, national form of expression. The artistic lineage of Polish posters can be traced to early 20th century influences, but most especially to the innovative and courageous poster artists of the pre- and post World War 2 era who took teaching positions in the newly reopened art schools of Poland. Passing down their theories and practice to succeeding generations, they taught painting, composition and conceptual thinking through the lens of poster design. This was a time of extraordinary works being created under extraordinary circumstances, and Polish posters remain an inspiration to visual communicators everywhere.
Frederick (“Rick”) Schneider has taught the history of illustration at the Art Institute of Boston (now Lesley University College of Art and Design) in Cambridge, Massachusetts and at Parsons/The New School in New York City. He is an award-winning graphic designer, art director and freelance illustrator, whose appreciation for and knowledge of the history of illustration has influenced and inspired students for more than 30 years. In 2015, with the patronage and collaboration of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rick has initiated and directed the design of an important new global resource for the study and enjoyment of illustration history – www.illustrationhistory.org. The site is home to essays, video presentations, timelines, book and exhibition catalogue excerpts, and biographies of historically important masters and contemporary practitioners. It is designed to encourage research and provide resources to all those interested in illustration’s vital place in art history. Image: Wiktor Sadowski. A theatrical poster for musical My Fair Lady done in 1986.