Stefan Stux Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works covering four decades of the career of pioneering artist Julian Stanczak. This will be Stanczak’s first solo exhibition in New York in twenty-five years. The exhibition is accompanied by a fold-out brochure with texts by Joe Fyfe, Agnes Gund, and Dave Hickey.
In the 1950’s, Stanczak began to form a unique artistic sensibility founded on the rigorous color experimentation of his teacher Josef Albers, and enlivened by his own intuitive grasp of art’s capacity to express hidden dimensions of the human spirit. His breakthrough New York exhibition took place at the historic Martha Jackson Gallery in 1964. Entitled “Julian Stanczak – Optical Paintings,” it inadvertently helped to coin the name for one of the pivotal movements of that turbulent decade – Op Art. Riding the crest of that wave, along with Bridget Riley and Richard Anuszkiewicz, Stanczak rose to prominence as one of the foremost young painters of the movement. His work was featured in all the major exhibitions of Op Art, including The Responsive Eye at MoMA in 1965, and Stanczak was popularly identified with the movement when his work appeared in both Time and Life magazine articles during the 1960’s.
Developing his interest in visually powerful, complex color relationships, Stanczak’s paintings have focused on a wide variety of forms, ranging from grids, repeated rectangles and other geometric forms, to arcs, curves, and even biomorphic contours. His intense concentration on color shifts and visual perception led him in a number of works to create the impression of line (although line itself does not exist) through abrupt shifts of hue and/or value. In a work like The Duel (1962/63), what initially appears to be a field of narrow vertical stripes is ingeniously disrupted to create a series of irregular, floating horizontal forms. The contours that define these shapes are in fact formed by the viewer’s perceptual apparatus, and not by any explicit line defining them. The implied becomes actual, even as the means to achieve this result are suppressed. This little miracle of vision – the way that our minds provide “missing” information as we encounter the visual world – is a phenomenon initially recognized and exploited by artists such as Seurat and Cezanne. (It also happens to be the key insight behind the development of the motion picture.)
For more than forty years, Julian Stanczak has continued a rich exploration of this essential, phenomenological insight, transcending mere “eyetwisting” games to find deep resonances far beyond the surface of the canvas. His recent paintings continue his geometrical interest in grids and patterns, always with a lush yet technically precise feeling for color. Much more than simple manipulation of the viewer’s perception, Stanczak’s work poses fundamental ontological questions – how do we determine what is real, and what is not? – that are consistently resolved in an astonishingly poetic fashion. Form dissolves before our eyes as expectation trumps reality, and just as miraculously, technical precision unfailingly cedes ground to pure feeling. In this body of work, seeing truly is believing.
Julian Stanczak retired in 1995 from a 31-year teaching career at the Cleveland Institute of Art. His paintings are included in the collections of more than sixty museums, and are represented in over a hundred significant corporate and private collections. A retrospective exhibition of Stanczak’s work, which David Pagel of the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most scintillating shows of the year,” has recently traveled to museums in Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, and a number of other venues.
- Beth E. Wilson