Wojciech Zamecznik

(1923 – 1967)

Graphic and poster artist, photographer, exhibition designer.

In the years 1940-42 Zamecznik studied at the Department of Interior Design of the High School for Building Engineering in Warsaw. During the Second World War he frequented clandestine classes at the Architecture Department of the Warsaw Polytechnic. He was a prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Between 1945 and 1947 he worked as a graphic designer at the Bureau for the Reconstruction of Warsaw.

Zamecznik was among the most eminent representatives of the Polish school of poster, however, his engineer’s approach earned him a distinct position among the artists of the movement. In the post-war circles of Polish graphic artists and designers he was a pioneer of artistic use of photography in graphic works. Zamecznik’s interest and use of photography brought him close to the tradition of Russian constructivists: Rodchenko and Lissitzky, the avant-garde typography, and functional print (the artist first used photography in poster in 1949, having executed a number of painterly posters).
Zamecznik initially worked with photomontage, after which he explored the photogram, a technique which eliminates half-tones and involves artistic shorthand and simplification—characteristic features of Polish post-War poster. At times he employed meaningful multiplication which introduced dynamism and rhythm into the composition (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).
Photography played an important role in Zamecznik’s practice—many photographs used in his graphic designs found their way to photography exhibitions as autonomous works. The fact how original and accomplished photographer he was can be seen in his archive, consisting of several thousand remarkable photographs, both experimental and documentary, as well as records of his many journeys and visual notes. 

In a 1950 poster Festival of Soviet Films [Festiwal Filmow Radzieckich] he first employed the raster effect, visible in large blown-up photographs. Similar method was at work in the 1951 poster for the film Die Sonnenbrucks, which received a honorable mention at the 1st Polish Poster Exhibition (1953), and in the poster for the film Cellulose [Celuloza]. Photograms created by means of various experiments such as overexposure, chemical processing, or contrasting positive and negative prints, were a point of departure for posters accompanying such films as Woman in the Window (1958) or The Trial Was Postponed [Proces zostal odroczony]. His poster for Night Train [Pociag] of 1959 brought him the H. Toulouse-Lautrec award at the International Film Poster Exhibition in Paris (1961) as well as diploma for the best cinema poster at the São Paulo Poster Exhibition (1962). Zamecznik also employed more experimental photographic techniques, creating works immediately on photosensitive material without the use of a camera (such as the series of porters for the International Festival of Contemporary Music “Warsaw Autumn” in the years 1962-1965; covers for albums with contemporary Polish music, including Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima [Tren pamieci ofiar Hiroszimy] from 1965).
He designer over 200 posters, and the logo of the International Poster Biennale.
Jan Lenica wrote about his posters: “His ascetic restraint had no parallel at the time when Polish Poster gravitated towards baroque profusion. For Wojciech Zamecznik poster was a mathematical operation, he strove to reduce complex formulas to the simples equations, the sum of two, three elements. He eagerly “juxtaposed” the photograph and the graphic sign, often organizing the whole space with a single element (as in Titanic); at times he did not go beyond reducing action to sign, yet he prepared photographs with an enthusiasm befitting an alchemist: treating them with acid, reversing, torturing in trays, soaking in the bathtub, cropping, cutting, wringing out, until he distilled their very essence, an intense effect, a pure and clear sound.”
In 1945 he was involved in the work on Warsaw Accuses [Warszawa Oskarza], the first post-War exhibition at the National Museum in Warsaw (as exhibition designer). His later designs include the Coal Pavilion at the Exhibition of Recovered Territories [Wystawa Ziem Odzyskanych] in Wroclaw in 1948 (with Stanislaw Zamecznik); The Second National Exhibition of Interior Design [II Ogolnopolska Wystawa Architektury Wnetrz], Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, Zacheta, Warsaw 1957 (with Oskar Hansen); From Young Poland to Our Days [Od Mlodej Polski do naszych dni], National Museum in Warsaw 1966 (the first retrospective exhibition of poster in Poland). He collaborated on the designs pavilions for international fairs (including food fairs in London in 1954, in Paris in 1955 (with H. Tomaszewski), Polish Pavilion in Turin in 1961 (with J. Lenica)), he also collaborated with the Museum of Sports and Tourism in Warsaw.
Zamecznik also worked with interior design and stage design (collaborating with, among others, Maly Theatre in Warsaw), as well as designed signs and logos (including the logo and the opening sequence of Pegaz, a  television program on culture, the logo of Arkady Press, and book designs). He was also interested in film. Along with Jan Lenica he produced a promotional film for the Polish pavilion at the International Exhibition Italia 61, he also created a number of opening sequences for feature films (Cross of Valor [Krzyz Walecznych] by K. Kutz, 1958; Mother Joan of the Angels [Matka Joanna od Aniolow], by J. Kawalerowicz 1960; Passenger [Pasazerka], by A. Munk, 1963).

In the years 1960-1967 Zamecznik headed the Studio of Photographic Design at the Graphic Art Department of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, whose program focused on working with photographic material, use of photography in graphic design, gradually developing towards issues related to animated films. Zamecznik worked as the graphic editor of the “Przeglad Kulturalny” weekly and the following monthly magazines: “Fotografia” (from 1953) and “Architektura” (from 1963).
From 1950 he was a member of the Association of Polish Artists, from 1963 member of the Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique, and from 1964 member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale. His works were frequently exhibited abroad: in Canada (1960), Milan (1961), Paris (1961), São Paulo (1962 and 1963), Italy (1964), Yugoslavia (1965), Sweden (1962), in Munich (1965) and Moscow (1949). The Poster Museum in Wilanow, Poland, founded in 1968, launched its exhibition program with a retrospective show of the artist’s work.
Agnieszka Szewczyk

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