University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Ryszard Otreba

Ryszard Otreba

Artist Information

Artist's Statement

Many of my prints were made in order to satisfy my need to create art in opposition to external things, in opposition to what is merely an aesthetic object. It was an opportunity for liberation—an art that encompasses the essence of creation. What I find in art is equilibrium because I am all contained in—and at the same time "discharged" by—what I create.

Between a human figure composed of fingerprints, walls of death, and other images full of dramatic tension on the one hand, and bows, greetings, "landscapes," a letter to Jadwiga, on the other, what is born in this real-life process of destruction is affirmation of and desire for life—a manifesto of feelings.

Where do I come from?

I represent the generation that programmes its own deliberate artistic activity, chooses simplicty, conciseness and classic elements in material used for graphic creation. Images made concrete in rhythmical and often symmetical layouts of lines, an almost geometrical planes of black, white, and grey, are formulated in the language of non-figurative art. These unique surfaces and shapes work like music: being its physical, graphic equivalents, they produce the idosyncratic expression of my prints.

Looking for inspiration, I fond some subtle affinity with the supremacist idea of new signs, make it possible to express direct feelings. I shy away from the world of objects, striving to transcend the barrier of spcificity, in order to create signs that are closer to intellectual expression.

This presentation includes merely a few dozen of my prints made during the forty years of my work. In seemingly rigorous layouts, I formulate autonomous, deliberate signs, sequences of signs, and new symbols.

I dedicate this exhibition to the memory of the murdered members of my family, who have left behind a vast zone of silence.

Ryszard Otreba. Krakow, 2007.


Otreba and "Greetings V" Photographed in 1992
Graphic for Otreba exhibition 1999-2000 at the National Museum in Krakow, Poland.
Poster from Victoria and Albert Museum featuring Otreba's work as new acquisition
Ronaly Alley congratulating Ryszard Otreba for his work in the International Graphics Bienniale in Krakow, 1980.

Otreba in his studio.


Exhibition in Krakow
Silence XV, 2007. Digital Print.
Harry, 1964. Plasterprint.
Discovery, 1975. Plasterprint.
To Bring Closer, 1975. Plasterprint.
Stillness, 1977

Auschwitz: All Souls Day (November 1), 1980. Plasterprint.

The Private Zone of Stillness, 1980. Plasterprint.
Oppression, 1980. Plasterprint.
Sign Discrimination, 1986. Plasterprint.
Result of Codification II, 1989. Plasterprint.
Mystery Secret I, 1993. Plasterprint.
Imagniary Disappearance of an Object II, 1990. Plasterprint.
Apparent Order V, 1996. Plasterprint.
Apparent Harmony VII, 1996. Plasterprint.
Realization II, 1999. Plasterprint.
Realization III, 1999. Plasterprint.
Commemoration I, 1989. Plasterprint.
Drawing II, 1992. Mixed media.
artwork artwork
Greetings V, 1967. Plasterprint.

Drawing I (1992) Mixed technique

Realization I (1999)

Drawing III (1999) Mixed technique.

Sign of Discrimination II (1987) Platerprint

Sign of Destruction. (1989). Plasterprint

Unlimited Belief I (1994) Plasterprint

Drawing B (1998) Mixed media

Disappearance of an Object IV. (1990) Plasterprint

Sign of Discrimination VII (1992) Plasterprint

Apparent Order VI (1996) Plasterprint

Otreba’s works in Memory of Family Members

Otreba's father, two brothers, and two sisters who were incarcerated in Nazi camps as Polish (Catholic) Political prisoners. The artist has used official archives at Auschwitz, Ravensbreuck and other camps to find information on his family’s fate.

Testament to My Family Collection, 2007. Digital Prints.

Testament to My Family Collection, 2007. Digital Prints.

Testament to My Family Collection, 2007. Digital Prints.

Testament to My Family Collection, 2007. Digital Prints.

Pole – 188550 1963

188550 1963 (detail)

Pole – 79875 1963 – (Sister’s Camp Fingerprint Wall C II)

“Auschwitz Wall of Death Block” 1965

In Memory of my Father (2007) Digital Print

Walery-remembrance Day (Sister) (2007) Digital Print

Lucy-remembrance say (Sister), 2007 Digital print

P-79875 Fool of Pain, 2007 Digital Print

P-188550 Fool of Pain, 2007 Digital

Frank twice, 2007 Digital Print

Frank’s Sign, 2007, Digital Print

Tryptych for Polish Biennale in Katowice – 1977

detail panel 1

detail panel 3

Tryptych Artist’s Father - 1977