Now, you, too, can have a piece of history in your lifetime - your own Solidarity (SOLIDARNOSC) poster. The same poster that helped the Polish people win their freedom - the poster that served as a visual rallying symbol for defeating Communism.
Tomasz Sarnecki (1966-2018), a young Polish graphic designer, transformed a publicity still of Gary Cooper striding down the street in the famous film High Noon (1952) into a campaign poster for the crucial 1989 Polish elections. The poster was displayed all over Poland, encouraging voters to end Communist control of Poland. The 1989 elections - the first democratic election in Eastern Europe since 1946 - finally brought to power Lech Walesa and the once outlawed Solidarity Party. (In 1980, after a rash of nationwide strikes, Solidarity gained recognition as the first legal independent trade union in a Soviet controlled country.) The year 2020 marked the 40th Anniversary of Solidarity -- 1980-2020.
In the Solidarity (SOLIDARNOSC) poster, Sarnecki portrays Cooper armed with a folded ballot for Poland's Solidarity Party in his right hand & wearing the Solidarity (SOLIDARNOSC) logo above his sheriff's badge in a showdown with Communist 'bandits'. The message at the bottom is short and to the point: "W SAMO POLUDNIE 4 CZERWCA 1989" - It's High Noon, June 4, 1989.
This special edition poster (27 1/2"w x 39 1/2"h) was printed in 1999 in Poland in a limited quantity by the artist in honor of the 10th Anniversary of Solidarity.
[Today, the 1989 poster is almost impossible to find since the few which have survived are incredibly valuable - artistically, historically as well as monetarily.]
The Writing on the Wall
It was a Sunday morning in 1989,
and Gary Cooper was all over
Warsaw. Nearly 10,000 posters,
plastered around the city at daybreak,
bore the image of the marshal from
the 1952 Western High Noon. His
photograph was black and white, save
for the red Solidarity logo placed on
his chest, and he carried a paper
ballot in place of a pistol. The poster's
inscription was simple: IT'S HIGH
NOON, JUNE 4, 1989.
That paper sheriff was on a mission:
to encourage Poles to vote for
Solidarity in that day's parliamentary
elections. In the Western, the hero
always wins; in the elections,
Solidarity secured a landslide victory,
and the High Noon poster became an
emblem of triumph and new
beginning. Yet the poster itself marked an ending. It was the last great work
of the Polish Poster School.
Half a century before Twitter became the medium of choice for underground
communications in Iran, artistically innovative Poles used the power of
images to slip subversive messages past the communist watchdogs. In an
age when "print" means "old," and visual appeal takes a back seat to speed,
it's hard to believe what a powerful weapon lithography could once be.
Twenty-four posters from the heyday of the Polish school are on view at New
York's Museum of Modern Art until November. The works, clustered together
as they would have been on a poster kiosk in Warsaw, chronicle a movement
that actually benefited from the oversight of the communist regime. Posters
advertising plays, films, circuses, and exhibitions were subject to strict
control, but they also received state funding. Censorship also provided a
strangely nurturing environment for creativity, especially in the way artists
borrowed from surrealism and expressionism to develop a language of
metaphor. In one poster advertising a 1981 production of Macbeth, the
king's face appears trapped in a kind of brick bandage resembling a castle.
His eyes are obscured, his jaw locked in place. To the censor, it showed a
face with a castle; to the viewer, it could speak volumes about the blinding,
mind-numbing danger of power.
It's been 20 years since Cooper's marshal marched into Warsaw, leaving the
country—and its posters—changed forever. Poles remembered his influence
on the anniversary of the election this year by displaying an oversize reprint
of the poster on Warsaw's Palace of Culture. But today, state support for
artists is gone, and sales-driven, artless advertising is king. In Poland (as in
the United States), visual culture is saturated with pop-up ads and all-too-
obvious sales slogans. It's nearly impossible to find socially compelling
commercial art. Maybe the Polish Poster School can take us back to that high
noon, when a picture really could speak a thousand words.
By Isia Jasiewicz
Published Jul 24, 2009 From the magazine issue dated Aug 3, 2009
Photo #218 "High Noon - 4 June 1989" - Solidarnosc from the book:
"Solidarnosc, Twenty Years of History"
Over 280 unique photographs documenting the history of NSZZ "SOLIDARNOSC." Moments of hope and glory, martial law and III Rzeczpospolita (Republic of Poland) caught by the most famous photographers and amateurs. Pictures taken by demonstrators in secret and those kept in official communist archives. 250 pages.
Book available from Polish-American Bookstore, NYC, (212) 594-2386; Polish Bookstore & Publishing, Inc, Brooklyn, NY, (800) 277-0407, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; your local Polish bookstore, or from publisher:
PAI S.A., Polska Agencja Informacyjna S.A., 00 - 585 Warszawa, ul. Bagatela 12, Poland, phone: (00 48) 22 -628 22 87, email: email@example.com
"From Peaceful Resolution
to Success in a New Europe:
Conference at Columbia U. (NY)
Institute for The Study of Europe (ISE)
Dec. 1, 2000
Darrus Jadowski, Consul General & Pawel Potoroczyn, Cultural Institute, Consulate General of The Republic of Poland, NYC
Photo exhibit on 'The Polish August,' organized by 'The KARTA Center,' Warsaw, Poland
The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York
233 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Solidarnosc, Twenty Years of History
Photo Exhibit, Sept 15-20, 2000
President George Bush & Lech Walesa, Warsaw, 9/28/89
President Ronald Reagan & Lech Walesa, Gdensk shipyard, 1998
Poland joins NATO, Poland Minister of Foreign Affairs, B. Geremek & U. S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, K. C., MO, 3/12/99
Photos #218, #232, #233, #255 from the book "Solidarnosc, Twenty Years of History".
Other posters by artists of the Polish School of Posters
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