Monday, June 9, 2014

Julian Stanczak, the Artist of Color and Light

Hot Summer by Julian Stanczak (1956)

On January 3, 2014, PAHA honored the 70-year career of artist Julian Stanczak with its Creative Arts Prize. According to PAHA President, Dr. Thomas Napierkowski, this award “recognizes contributions in the field of creative arts by individuals or groups that have promoted an awareness of the Polish experience in the Americas.”
Constant Return I by Julian Stanczak, 1965, 39x39

Julian Stanczak (b.  1928 in Poland), was deported by the Soviet military to a gulag in Perm, Siberia, following the Nazi-Soviet invasion and conquest of Poland in 1939.  Stanczak escaped from Siberia in 1942, via Persia and Uganda. In 1942-48, he lived in a Polish refugee camp, in Uganda, Africa, where he received his first private art lessons and started painting and drawing the African landscape. Its vivid hues remained in his memory and inspired his life-long fascination with color. After studying for two years in England, in 1950, he came to the U.S. where he received a BA from the Cleveland Institute of Art (1954), and completed an MFA at Yale, studying with Josef Albers and Conrad Marca Relli (1956).He has achieved wide acclaim and success despite the fact that since his incarceration in the USSR, he permanently lost the use of  his right arm (he used to be right-handed).

Formation by Julian Stanczak, 1973, 50x60

Julian Stanczak is recognized as one of the important pioneers in Op-Art. This term first appeared in print in Time magazine in October 1964 in response to Stanczak's show Optical Paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York. “He taught for decades at the Cleveland Institute of Art and created hundreds of subtle and precisely executed geometric paintings whose patterns and colors interact in ways that make them seem to vibrate with electric energy. ” (Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer, Oct 30, 2012).

Green Light by Julian Stanczak, 1973, 60x60

His art was featured at 180 exhibitions, and may be found in 77 museums and private collections. Awards include a doctorate honoris causa from Case Western Reserve University. The year 2013-2014 is dedicated to Stanczak celebrations by the Akron Museum of Art in Cleveland, the Museum of Art, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and the Kelvin Smith Library of Case Western Reserve University.

Mirrored by Julian Stanczak (1971)

For further details see: Stanczak’s art in his own words:

 “My primary interest is color—the energy of the different wavelengths of light and their juxtapositions. The primary drive of colors is to give birth to light. But light always changes; it is evasive. I use the energy of this flux because it offers me great plasticity of action on the canvas. To capture the metamorphoses—the continuous changing of form and circumstance—is the eternal challenge and, when achieved, it offers a sense of totality, order, and repose. Color is abstract, universal—yet personal and private in experience.”

   Floating Green by Julian Stanczak, 1974-75, 28x28

       “I try to melt geometry down and make it sing.”  “In the beginning, geometry seemed brutal to me. When I first used it, it was as if I was removing personal responses and emotion, and I missed the connection to Nature and to life… Gradually I found that in a clear and clean environment, I could give my colors the emotive element without direct references to Nature… Yet even in my current work, I am still torn between emotion and Nature—fluency and geometry. When people ask me, ‘What are you painting?’ I might say, ‘Sunsets!’ … “I do not believe that one finds art in the object, but that one finds art within oneself by being confronted with an object of motivation. I do not cater to any public wish. Yet, we create for others, not for ourselves, because we want to share the experience of life!”

"Proportional Mixing," 2011, acrylic on board,
 30 panels of 16x16 inches each (84x101 inches overall)

Julian Stanczak gave PAHA permission to use his modern, elegant paintings in PAHA’s PR materials, such as the postcard about our journal, the Polish American Studies  and a tri-fold flyer about PAHA's goals, and projects. We are truly grateful for this generosity of an extraordinary artist. Below are two panels used in PAHA's material with permission of the artist.

Structural Cadmium Red and Structural Cobalt by Julian Stanczak, 2012, 24x24.

Article by Maja Trochimczyk, reprinted from the PAHA Newsletter, vol. 71 no. 1, Spring 2014.

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