CORVALLIS, OR.- A documentary directed by an Oregon State University professor is showing as part of an exhibit on Polish poster art at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The 40-minute documentary, “Freedom on the Fence,” is a 10-year labor of love for Andrea Marks, an associate professor in the Department of Art at OSU. Marks started the project in 1998 with colleague Anka Kolodziej. The two received a grant from OSU to work on an exchange project with students from OSU and The Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
The project led to her fascination with Polish posters and her desire to tell the story of these posters and the artists who made them.
“As a graphic designer, I was fascinated with this era of Polish poster making, which effectively ended with the fall of Communism,” Marks said. “It was interesting to me how artists had the freedom to create these incredible posters that were so powerful and individual in style within the confines of a Communist state.”
Marks directed and produced the film along with Glenn Holsten, a Philadelphia-based filmmaker who has considerable experience in creating documentaries for TV. In addition, OSU music professor Michael Coolen composed the soundtrack to the film.
The documentary features interviews with leading poster designers such as Henryk Tomaszewski (1914-2005) and Wiktor Gorka (1922-2004) recorded shortly before their deaths, discussion of several of the posters on display, and archival film footage that vividly conjures up the urban and political context in which these posters first appeared.
“The many miles of construction fences surrounding the ruins of Warsaw and other cities became a perfect place for colorful posters to be hung,” Marks said. “The streets became a poster gallery for the masses in Communist-Poland. Within the gray landscape, the posters were often referred to as ‘flowers in the streets,’ a beautiful metaphor.”
Marks’ documentary is showing at The Museum of Modern Art as part of “Polish Posters 1945-89,” a selection of 24 works drawn from the museum’s collection of posters from the Cold War era of the Polish Poster School, which has attracted international attention. The poster designers developed a sophisticated visual language characterized by surreal and expressionist tendencies, a bold use of color, and macabre, often satirical humor. The exhibit will be up through Nov. 30.
Marks said the process of making a documentary film was more challenging than she had originally envisioned, and the decade-long process included many gaps while she applied for more grants to complete the project. Since the completion of the film a few months ago, it has shown at a number of film festivals, including the Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Santa Fe Film Festival, the Hull International Film Festival and the San Diego Jewish Film Festival. She is planning to schedule some Northwest screenings this year.