By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
"TAKE A LOOK AT THIS AMERICAN POSTER for Shane," says Mulroy. "You're seeing the boy and the family through Shane's eyes, and it's all very positive, romanticized stuff. This, however" -- he flips over a page -- "is the Polish version." Against a stark background, artist Wojciech Wenzel has pinned a gray, death-haunted figure. "You'd never want this guy to 'Come back, Shane!'" says Mulroy, laughing. "If you listen to his last speech -- 'I've been branded a killer, I'm no good, don't count me as a hero' -- then you can see this poster as Shane looking at himself through his own eyes. One scene, two interpretations, East and West."
By contrast, a series of High Noon ads illustrates how posters played a role, albeit a peripheral one, in Polish history. One shows Gary Cooper against a white background above the words "High Noon, June 4, 1989." But it's not a movie poster at all: Behind Cooper's head is Solidarity's red logo. High noon is really June 4, 1989, the date of the first free elections in modern Poland. It must have been distressing for Jaruzelski's yes men to see the insurgent nation wallpapered with images of a decadent Yankee gunfighter. Though Cooper, of course, never enjoyed much solidarity from his craven townspeople, Solidarity won.
Mulroy digs out a government-approved cartoon poster of Ronald Reagan, enemy of the people, top international fascist, et cetera, complacently riding the international range in black hat and spurs. It's a response to the U.S.-led international embargo against Poland in 1982. If nothing else, it proves that two, even three, can play at this game, and that the rich, contradictory and infinitely flexible imagery of the Western, though in steep decline on these shores even 18 years ago, was capable of being remade in ways as modern and relevant as the news headlines.
WESTERN AMERYKAÑSKI: POLISH POSTER ART AND THE WESTERN At the Autry Museum of Western Heritage | From October 16 through January 30