1980. Very Good. Item #6168
Text on poster: Teatr Dramatyczny M. St. Warszawy // Operetka [the play Operetta] // Witold Gombrowicz. Date: 1980. Height x width: 98.5cm x 67cm (38.75” x 26.5”). Printing information: lower right corner: WZGraf. Zam. 2088. O-5. N. 1000 egz. Condition: About a dozen small (1cm) vertical tears at bottom edge and some general crumpling, now flattened; 0.25” x 1” chip lacking.
Poster artist Czerniawski studied at the State College of Plastic Arts in Wrocław. His work in graphics, illustration, painting, and stage design brought him into close association with the Polish counter-culture movements of the 1970s, and he would eventually receive multiple awards in Poland and the United States for his posters.
Playwright, novelist, and diarist Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), Polish nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966, writer in exile for most of his career—first in Argentina, then in France—is most known for his sardonically absurdist novels Ferdydurke, Trans-Atlantyk, and Pornografia, and for the three volumes of his Diaries. “Operetka,” which this glorious poster advertises by means of Gombrowicz’s repeated trope of the human rear end—conventionally translated as the “fanny” by Gombrowiczians—is not an operetta at all. It is, rather, a goofily grotesque and unsettling play about a fictional royal family in a fictional European court whose nonsensically cynical behaviors are so like those of the cartoonish caricatures in late 19th and early 20th century operettas that one might as well just call them that.
What is now seen as the height of Poland’s poster creativity was a paradoxical by-product of the height of Communist Party control over public messaging related to the arts and cultural endeavors from the mid-1940s to almost the end of the century. What had been, before the war, and dating back as early as the mid-19th century, florid and often text-heavy formats, where fonts and textual layout bore a predominant or equal burden with imagery in conveying information, yielded in the five decades after World War II to the primacy of the image on its own. Visuals became mischievous, allegorical, satiric, and parabolic, and so fantastically creative that they could make innumerable apolitical or counterpolitical appeals while eluding the specific controls of verbal censorship.