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Joe Nolan wrote this exhibition review.
France’s Belle Epoque came to an end with the first rumblings of World War I. The period had lasted for more than a quarter-century, and its peace, optimism and artistic advancements were celebrated in its stylized posters. If World War I ended the Great Poster Period in Paris, World War II prompted another in Poland.
Curiouser and Curiouser: Avant-Garde Polish Theater Posters From the 1970s (through August 28 at the The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery) is a vivid, colorful affair that’s full of the sexuality, humor and dramatic intensity of the performances these prints were created to promote. Inspired by Pop Art and the experimental theater of the period, these works share stylistic similarities with their contemporaneous American counterparts. But where American poster art after the 1960s reflected the hedonistic liberation of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that arose in the wake of the various youth movements of the time, these Polish prints are soaked in irony and satire, born from a then-recent history of Nazi occupation followed by communist rule.
The exhibit pulls from the ripe center of the Polish School of Posters, which generally dates from 1950-80.
Joe Nolan is the visual arts editor. He is a poet, musician, artist and critic who distills the city’s gallery scene from Nashville’s east side. Find out more about his projects at joenolan.com.