Art of the Street


Art of the Street: The Masters of the Polish School of Poster Art
September 20 – September 30, 2018 (open daily from 11 am – 7 pm)
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 20 from 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm
@ Enterprise Square Gallery, University of Alberta Downtown Campus (Harcourt’s off-site venue)
10230 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB. Open daily from 11 am to 7 pm.

Presented in partnership with The Polonia Foundation in Alberta, The Polish Culture Society of Edmonton, and The Canadian-Polish Association of Calgary as a key international exhibition during Design Week at Harcourt House and 2018 Alberta Culture Days, this exhibition showcases over 50 posters by internationally renowned contemporary poster designers from Poland who breached the boundaries of conventional poster design: Roman Cieslewicz (1930-1995), Stasys Eidrigevicius, Mieczyslaw Gorowski (1941-2011), Jan Lenica (1929-2001), Lech Majewski, Jan Mlodozeniec (1929-2000), Rafal Olbinski, Andrzej Pagowski, Wiktor Sadowski, Jan Sawka (1946-2012), Franciszek Starowieyski (1930-2009), Waldemar Swierzy (1931-2013), and Wieslaw Walkuski, among others. The exhibiting works are from institutional and private art collections in Edmonton and Calgary.

Drawing on a rich Central European tradition in graphic arts, designers like Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieslewicz, Jan LenicaFranciszek Starowieyski, and Rafal Olbinski developed a sophisticated visual language characterized by surreal and expressionist tendencies, a bold use of colour, macabre, and often satirical humour. Undermining tradition and challenging their proclamatory purpose, Polish posters have inspired a new approach to the genre, which elevated poster design to an artform equal in importance to other forms of fine art. The “Polish School of Poster Art” is an international term coined to emphasize the world-wide fame and undeniable quality of Polish posters from the period of 1955-1990. Hundreds of them are masterpieces of art appreciated by international art critics, connoisseurs, private collectors, and public art institutions from all over the world.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 40-minute documentary entitled “Freedom on the Fence” (2008), directed by Andrea Marks and Glen Holsten. This film features interviews with leading designers such as Henryk Tomaszewski (1914-2005) and Wiktor Gorka (1922-2004) recorded shortly before their deaths, discussion  with leading international critics and authorities on Polish Poster Art, and archival footages that vividly conjure up the urban and political context in which these posters first appeared.

The exhibition celebrates the 100th Anniversaries of the Independence of the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Lithuania, 50th Anniversary of the Museum of Poster Art in Wilanow, Poland (the first museum in the world dedicated to the poster art), and the 30th Anniversary of Harcourt House Artist Run Centre.

The exhibition is curated by Jacek Malec, Executive Director of Harcourt House Artist Run Centre.

Images (L to R):
Hubert Hilscher (1924-1999) – Poster Design for the 1972 International Jazz Festival – Jazz Jamboree, Warszawa, 1972; offset. Collection: Tony Muszynski, Calgary. Artwork image © by the artist. Photo / Ruta Nichol. 

Jan Mlodozeniec (1929-2000) – Poster design for “Galeria rue Revue”, n.d. Paris; offset. Collection: Tony Muszynski, Calgary. Artwork image © by the artist. Photo / Ruta Nichol. 

Waldemar Swierzy (1931-2013) – Poster design for the play “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, n.d.; Municipal Theatre, Slupsk; offset. Collection: Tony Muszynski, Calgary. Artwork image © by the artist. Photo / Ruta Nichol. 

This exhibition project has been made possible through the generous assistance of:

Presenting Sponsors: The Polonia Foundation in Alberta
                                             The Polish Culture Society of Edmonton

Presenting Partners: Kingston Ross Pasnak LLP Chartered Accountants
                                             The Polish-Canadian Association of Calgary

Venue Sponsors: University of Alberta, Bentall Kennedy (Canada) LP