Wojciech Zamecznik was a poster designer. He was born on 13th January, 1923 in Warsaw, and died on 12th May, 1967.
Between 1940 and 1942, he studied at the Interior Design Department of the Higher School of Engineering in Warsaw and as took part in the secret courses of the Warsaw University of Technology's Architecture Faculty. After the war, the continued studying at the same faculty of the University of Technology. He was detained at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
He designed over two hundred posters. Jan Lenica wrote the following about his poster works:
His ascetic moderation stood out in a time when Polish posters favoured baroque abundance. For Wojciech Zamecznik, a poster was a mathematical operation – he aimed at reducing complex patterns to the simplest solutions, a sum of two or three elements. He was keen on fusing photography and graphic signs, and often organized an entire poster (e.g. his Titanic) around a single element. He sometimes stopped at reducing his equation to a sign, but manipulated photography with a true alchemist's delight: he corroded it with acid, inverted, tortured it in processing trays, soaked in a bathtub, framed, cut up, wrung it, to eventually extract its essence, a condensed effect, a powerful and pure resonance.
His engineer-like approach and interest in photography bring Zamecznik closer to the tradition of the Soviet constructivists, such as Lissitzky or Rodchenko. He first introduced photography into his poster design in 1949 – before that, he worked with painted images. He used the photogram technique, which eliminated all half-tones and thus forced a simplification – an effect beloved in Polish poster design. He occasionally introduced meaningful repetitions, dictated by the context and content (V-ème congrès de la fédération mondiale des villes jumelées, We Are All Responsible for the Safety of Children/Wszyscy odpowiadamy za bezpieczeństwo dzieci/, 1964). He also used colour photography, such as in the poster for Jerzy Kawalerowicz's film Night Train (Pociąg, 1959), and monochrome photography (Unvanquished City/Miasto nieujarzmione, 1958 and Mondo cane/Pieski świat, 1964). Zamecznik's posters are precise, raw, and solemn. He even tackled the theme of the Circus, which normally tempts the designers to play and joke, with gravity: the acrobats make nearly suicidal jumps, while the body of the bottom figure is dramatically bent. Every now and then, he produced humorous posters, such as King, Pull In to the Right (Królu, zjeżdżaj na prawo, 1960) – a cut-out, grotesque scene presenting a wagon-driver in an imaginary crown obstructing traffic on the road (this work received an honorable mention at the Warsaw's Best Poster Competition in 1964).
In 1961, he received the H. Toulouse-Lautrec Honorable Mention at the International Exhibition in Paris.
His first exhibited works were produced for the Department of Propaganda and Agitation of the Polish Communist's Party Central Committee. In 1945, he participated in the first post-war exhibition at the National Museum – Warsaw Accuses (Warszawa oskarża). Later on, he took part in such exhibitions as The Renaissance in Poland (Odrodzenie w Polsce) and the extremely important poster retrospective From Young Poland to Our Days (Od Młodej Polski do naszych dni, 1966). It was the first retrospective poster show in Poland. In 1952, Zamecznik was rewarded for the design of the Four Domes Pavilion at the Recovered Territories Exhibition. He cooperated with the Museum of Sport and Tourism in Warsaw.
He was a music lover. He designed cover art for vinyl records of the Polskie Nagrania (Polish Recordings) label, e.g. for the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (Tren pamięci ofiar Hiroszimy) by Krzysztof Penderecki, and to Works from the 7th International Festival of Contemporary Music (Utwory VII Międzynarodowego Festiwalu Muzyki Współczesnej). The latter cover received the Golden Conker Award and diploma in 1964.
Apart from covers and posters, he was also active in the fields of interior and set design (collaborating with e.g. the Mały Theatre in Warsaw), minor applied design (approx. one hundred works; including the logo of the Pegaz television cultural programme, the logo of the Arkady publishing house, and the logo for the Warsaw's Poster Biennale), book illustration (in 1960 he received the honourable mention for book illustration at the International Book Exhibition in London). He was also interested in film. Together with Lenica, he created a promotional video for the Polish Pavilion at the International Exhibition Italia 61 (the film received the Silver Dragon Award), he was the author of the Pegaz tv show opening credits, he also collaborated with Kazimierz Kutz (Cross of Valor/Krzyż Walecznych, 1958).
In 1950, he joined the Association of Polish Artists and Designers (ZPAP), in 1963 – Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique, and in 1964 – Aliance Graphique International. He worked as an editor of the Przegląd Kulturalny (Cultural Review) weekly, and of the monthly magazines: Fotografia (Photography) – from 1953, and Architektura (Architecture) – from 1963. In 1963 he became an associate professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where he had been working as a lecturer at the Photography Design Workshop since 1960.
Zamecznik's works were exhibited in many countries outside of Poland: Canada (1960), Milan (1961), Paris (1961), São Paulo (1962 and 1963), Italy, (1964), Yugoslavia (1965), Sweden (1962), Munich (1965), and Moscow (1949). In 1964, in Ljubljana, he received the Golden Medal at the Biennial of Industrial Design for his posters for the Warsaw Autumn festival. He received many awards for lifetime achievements: in 1955, he received the Gold Cross of Merit, in 1956 – the Award of the Minister of Culture and of the Central Office of Cinematography, in 1960 – the Art Award of the Przegląd Kulturalny (Cultural Review), and in 1961 – Second Prize at an exhibition from the series Polish Visual Art on the 25th Anniversary of the People's Republic of Poland (Polskie Dzieło Plastyczne w XV-lecie PRL).
Wojciech Zamecznik died on 12th May 1967. His works were exhibited at the Warsaw Poster Biennale in 1968, which was also the year of the first retrospective of works by Zamecznik.
Author: Sylwia Giżka, December 2006, transl. Ania Micińska, April 2015
Source and quotes:
Wojciech Zamecznik. 1923-67. Ed. J. Fijałkowska, I. Milanowska. Warsaw 1968
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