Polish circus posters, with their vibrant metaphors and allusions, have long been of interest to collectors of poster art. Now, an exhibit, CYRK: Polish Circus Posters, will open locally with a reception at 6 p.m. Saturday, February 17th, at Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Admission is free. The works will remain on display through Saturday, March 10th.

CYRK posters, with their whimsical subject matter, were unmatched in popularity during what is called the golden age of the Polish School of Posters from 1945 (the end of World War II) until 1989 (the fall of Communism), according to Track 16 Gallery.

During this time, the Polish government financially supported and encouraged poster art. Posters became the primary art form of the nation. The artistic significance of Polish posters, especially circus posters, spread internationally, according to Track 16 Gallery.

Contemporary CYRK posters were first created in 1962, when the state circus agency, the United Entertainment Enterprises (ZPR), commissioned Polish artists to develop a modern approach to the circus poster.

The agency wanted to produce a revised look to the circus poster to parallel the circus’s efforts to upgrade its image.

The new CYRK posters were not to be advertisements presenting concrete objects, people or facts from the show, but rather they were to be artistic renderings letting the public know that an exciting and modernized circus was coming to town, according to Track 16 Gallery.

Based usually on a single theme of common symbols — jugglers, clowns or animals — the metaphors and allusions created were meant to be read into, pondered and digested, according to Track 16.

JUDAISM IN POLAND — In conjunction with the CYRK: Polish Circus Posters exhibit, Track 16 Gallery will present a screening of three half-hour PBS documentaries related to current Jewish life and issues in Poland at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1st, at the gallery.

A Torah Returns to Poland (2006), a documentary narrated by Theodore Bikel, traces the journey of a Torah that originated in Alsace in 1876. World War II tragically altered its fate. When the Alsatian Jewish community was deported to the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz built in Poland by the German army, they brought their antique Torah with them. It was found intact after the war. From the ruins, the Torah somehow made its way to New York’s Lower East Side. There it was maintained by the Manhattan family of Harley and Marie Lippman, who brought it full circle back to Poland in June 2005, contributing it to the Polish Jewish community in honor of their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.

The documentary’s premier was held in January at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.

Klezmer Musicians Travel ‘Home’ to Krakow (2004), also narrated by Bikel, intersperses traditional and nouveau Klezmer music with introspective thoughts and feelings of modern Klezmer-style musicians examining why they return annually to the Krakow Jewish Cultural Festival. The documentary ends with an old Yiddish folk tale that depicts Krakow as a treasure trove of Jewish history and culture.

From Kristallnacht to Crystal Day: A Synagogue in Wroclaw Glows Again (2001), narrated by Nina Siemaszko, looks at the cycle of a community’s destruction to rebirth through the eyes of the White Stork Synagogue, which was founded in 1829. On Kristallnacht November 9th, 1938, the synagogue was ransacked by Nazis. Sixty years later, a ceremony was held to commemorate Kristallnacht and celebrate the reclamation.

Information, (310) 264-4678.