You might remember a few weeks ago we shared our experience of visiting the exhibition of works by Karol Śliwka, a brilliant Polish modernist designer. Now, we’re not usually people who buy a lot of merchandise on such occasions (catalogs, sure) but this time one of the gadgets was a T-shirt with purple logos by Śliwka and we couldn’t resist.
The T-shirt is sold by Pan tu nie stał, a Polish clothing company whose products reference the time of the People’s Republic of Poland (not a great time in Polish history, strictly speaking, but full of things people feel nostalgic about). The company uses a lot of humor not just in their designs but also, as we discovered, in packaging and marketing materials.
Most of the jokes are fairly difficult to explain outside of Poland (all the elements of packaging reference slogans from old products, from work safety posters etc.) but you can still appreciate the design (modern) and attention paid to all the details. This is how the T-shirt is packed, into gray-paper envelope with well-designed graphic elements and old-fashioned slogans:
The back of the envelope.
And the T-shirt itself.
This week we went on a somewhat eventful trip to Kraków, where we visited a large exhibition of works by Stanisław Wyspiański.
Wyspiański (1869–1907) is one of the most brilliant Polish writers who also created wonderful art in different genres, particularly pastels. But the exhibition in Kraków focuses more on his ventures into applied arts, which makes it particularly interesting as he dabbled in pretty much everything. He designed theater costumes, furniture and particularly elements of large-scale interior decoration (including stained glass windows) for churches.
A kids lesson about designing and creating stained glass windows.
Wyspiański was impressively good at drawings resembling Gothic paintings on stained glass.
The exhibition is discreetly but adeptly designed. Here a little ornamental decoration presumably drawn from Wyspiański’s work.
The exhibition shows not only the finished products of his work but also preliminary stages – sketched, designs – which we found fascinating. It might have been too specialized for some visitors but we drank it up.
One room shows better-known works: paintings and pastels,
including this lovely drawing of a boy.
Supposedly this furniture was meant to be uncomfortable so that the city council would not spend too long sitting in it.
Fragment of staircase that we would totally have in our place. It wouldn’t match anything but who cares.
We fully recommend seeing this extensive collection, should you happen to be in Kraków one of these months.
Last week heat waves defeated us but this week we finally managed to see the exhibition held in the Museum of Gdynia, showing the work of one of the greatest Polish designers, Karol Śliwka.
Śliwka worked for decades in the period of communist regime in Poland when the conditions for graphic design were completely different than they are now (long story). He almost single-handedly introduced logo modernism here and dominated the visual landscape. He created posters, packaging and, most of all, logos, following strict, intellectual rules according to which a mark needs to be the synthesis of ideas that represent a company or an institution in a beautifully geometricized form. What is more, unlike some other modernists’ of the period, Śliwka’s logos are rarely pure geometric experiments: they retain human heart, a sense of humor and joy, despite their minimalist form.
The exhibition shows him as a versatile designer, good with illustration, classically trained but particularly focused on his biggest love, logos (which he actually learned to design by himself, as he studied different disciplines). We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and encourage you to visit the exhibition, should you be in Gdynia soon(ish).
Below you can see the logo for Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Warszawy (The Society of Friends of Warsaw), which is probably our favorite of all Śliwka’s logos, simply because it had no right to work – and it does so well. The letters form the shape of a mermaid with a sword and a shield, the symbol of Warsaw.
A neon made from Śliwka’s signature.
On the wall you can see some of Śliwka’s posters, which he usually designed in a similar way to the logos.
Book and brochure covers.
Peace building and in the background a brilliant logo for the Institute of Mother and Child (a medical institution). It’s Lubalin-level brilliance, and we don’t say that lightly.
Packaging for sweets.
These are quite brilliant in the simple decisions made here.
A screen from a short, interesting movie about Śliwka in which, our friend Patryk Hardziej shows to him pages devoted to his work in Taschen’s Logo Modernism. Patryk is one of the creators of the exhibition and a great champion of Śliwka’s work, and he’s been working on popularizing it for a couple of years now.
Last week we took J to an exhibition in Sopot that shows three Japanese poster designers. He didn’t seem much awed by those masters but we were, and so we’re sharing with you some highlights. (Note: the gallery didn’t allow for photos in the exhibition so all the images are internet-derived.)
We were definitely most impressed by Ikko Tanaka, who started his long career in Tokyo and worked for many institutions and corporations. We knew some of his work, mostly the posters based on illustrations of faces, but seeing many posters displayed together allowed us to admire the style he developed. He combined modernist love for geometricization with a sensitivity to the Japanese tradition of woodcut and illustration. He also managed to make these posters very decorative with the choice of color and with a really good sense of how to use simplification to create attractive forms.
Tanaka’s famous face posters: on the left the most well-known one. These show his mastery of simple forms and colors.
Tanaka’s geometricized natural forms form the possibly most accessible part of his work.
The second designer, Yusaku Kamekura, is probably the most revered one, and slightly older than the other two. He also combined Western inspirations with Japanese tradition but in a less consistent way: he used different techniques, geometric, painterly, even photographic. He’s most famous work is probably that related to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
There is something very decorative and ornamental about many of Kamekura’s posters.
And the third one, Shigeo Fukuda, differs a bit. He didn’t seem that inspired by either modernism nor Japanese traditional art but instead sought surrealist metaphors and visual illusions. While we like his ideas, the style speaks to us the least, reminding us of some later Polish poster designers we don’t necessarily enjoy as much.
Fukuda returned many times to the same motifs, like the folded piece of paper…
…or the most charming one, an Escherian dachshund.
In addition to the very interesting poster exhibition, the gallery also held two more typically art exhibitions: one of Polish painting (mostly from 19th and early 20th century) and one of contemporary art inspired by a Polish modernist sculptor, Katarzyna Kobro. These excited our son more, particularly the projector used for one of the modern exhibits.
A most impressive painting by Weiss, showing school girls on a walk in Kraków. We were awed by the subtle color palette and the photographic composition, particularly that not all of Weiss’s work is equally exiciting.
Speaking of dachshunds (?), a charming pastel sketch by one of our favorites, Stanisław Wyspiański.
A variation on a medieval illumination turned into a fairy tale by Zbigniew Waliszewski (“The Hunt”).
From the modern art exhibition something right up our valley, a typographic installation by Aurelia Mandziuk-Zajączkowska. Letterforms inspired by Polish modernism.
And this is Kobro’s work, a nude.