Royal College of Art Presents Roman Cieslewicz Exhibition

A major retrospective exhibition of over 150 key works from Roman Cieślewicz’s diverse career will be on display at the Royal College of Art through 7 August 2010.

Curated by the RCA’s David Crowley, Andrzej Klimowski, Jeff Willis along with Anna Grabowska-Konwent from the National Museum in Poznan, the Roman Cieślewicz exhibition is organised by the Polish Cultural Institute and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of POLSKA! YEAR.

The retrospective explores the life and work of one of the key figures in the history of graphic design. This landmark exhibition will be the first major retrospective of Cieślewicz’s work in Britain. Working first in Warsaw and then in Paris, Cieślewicz was at the heart of artistic life in both cities. In a career that bridged the Cold War division of Europe, he brought surrealist fantasy to the staid visual culture of communist Poland and, when he arrived in Paris in 1963, a critical perspective on consumer spectacle in the West.

Cieślewicz was – alongside Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky – a member of Panique, the ‘last’ surrealist group in France. At the same time he was a brilliant art director at Elle, and a contributor to Vogue. Remarkably prolific, he also worked closely with figures from the worlds of advertising and fashion including Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton.

Extraordinarily talented as an image-maker, Cieślewicz’s tools were not the pen or the brush but the scalpel and scissors. Working with collage, he produced compelling and original images by reworking familiar icons such Che Guevara or Mona Lisa. “I always go for the maximum picture and the maximum information. You need to stimulate imagination to the maximum” – he once said in an interview.

In the last ten years of his life he developed a sharply critical view of the influence of the media, most notably in his penetrating study of the ‘society of the spectacle’, Pas de Nouvelles – Bonnes Nouvelles (No News is Good News, 1986), an exhibition and book project which remains remarkably current today.

Throughout his career he produced powerful political statements about the dignity of humanity in the face of injustice, not least in his public projections on Paris landmarks for the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989.

The exhibition will include film and cinema posters from the 1950s and 1960s, collage illustration for classic literature, iconic magazine covers and publicity for the Centre Georges Pompidou.

The majority of the exhibits come from the largest and most important collection of his works in the National Museum in Poznan. Some of the exhibited pieces also come from Museum Art in Łódź and private collection of Cezary Pieczyński.

Cieślewicz had over one hundred solo exhibitions and participated in all major poster biennales in the world. His works can be found in the collections of the Polish National Museums in Warsaw, Krakow, Poznań, Wrocław, the Poster Museum in Warsaw, and in the Museum of Art in Łódź and in major international collections such as Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), New York Museum of Modern Art, Musée d’Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Library of Congress in the USA and Musée de Grenoble in Grenoble.

Image: Roman Cieślewicz, Mrs. Lacleur – /The Mysteries of Udolpho/ 1975

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