When Jerzy Janiszewski departed Poland in 1982, he left some posters of his most famous design with a friend. The pal didn’t put them in the attic, and he didn’t hang any in his home; instead, he buried them. Janiszewski’s creation, one of the most famous and powerful graphic-art images of the late 20th century, was the logo for Solidarity, the Gdansk shipyard workers movement that defied Poland’s communist government. The movement and its emblem had been banned, and Janiszewski had little choice but to flee.
One of those posters, dug up in 1989, is among three versions of the Solidarity logo on display at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, a new Logan Circle gallery. Also included is the first imprint of the design, approved for use by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who signed it — that one’s not for sale — as well as a hand-painted version done for a BBC program in 1999. The logo, Krause notes, wasn’t just a design job; inspired by graffiti, Janiszewski chose both the look and the word “Solidarnosc,” thus naming the movement.
Janiszewski, who lives in Spain, is a successful graphic designer. One of his latest logos, also on display here, was commissioned by Poland to mark its six-month 2011 tenure as president of the Council of the European Union. But most of this show’s art was done privately and has rarely been exhibited. It’s mixed-media work on (and mostly of) paper and cardboard, contrasting freehand lines and bursts of paint with mass-produced, machine-printed items. The most dramatic of the collages are “Black A” and “Black B,” two handsome abstractions in which bits of text and color dot heavily worked black fields.
The more minimalist pieces arrange simple rectangles, such as Barcelona Metro tickets or strips from inside the tops of Marlboro packages, into larger compositions. They suggest a pack-rat Sol LeWitt and, as Krause notes, “speak to exile.” They also reveal an aesthetic honed in a land of scarcity, where every scrap was a potential artistic medium. These assemblages share the spirit of simplicity and directness that informed Janiszewski’s best-known design.
Krause, a former foreign correspondent for this paper and several TV news operations, became interested in suppressed artwork while reporting from authoritarian countries in the 1970s and ’80s. His gallery will feature the art of “protest, propaganda and political change,” which he says is too often undervalued by art-world purists. The gallery will usually show its wares only by appointment, but it will be open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
‘From Forge to Form’
To make both functional and abstract objects, Virginia artists Nol Putnam and Frederic Crist draw on millenniums of metalworking tradition. They render plantlike forms in iron, steel and brass, recalling everything from prehistoric Celtic torques to the Paris Metro’s art nouveau railings and canopies. The pieces in “From Forge to Form: Modern Ironwork” — sometimes shown only in models, drawings or photographs — include gates and benches; a realistic apple and loosely rendered rooster, both forged in iron; and 3-D squiggles made of steel and suspended in midair to produce a complex dance of shadows. The work is impressive in range as well as craft.