Julian Stanczak, a figurehead of the 1960s Op art movement, died at his home in Seven Hills, Ohio, on March 25, reports Alex Greenberger of Artnews. The artist’s paintings—sleek, scintillating, seductive, groovy—were said to have a “painterly expressiveness,” per Donald Judd, which made them stand out from other kinds of Op art production. Stanczak was featured in the seminal but critically maligned 1965 exhibition “The Responsive Eye,” a group show that attempted to make sense of Op’s currency and its historical precedents, organized by William C. Seitz at MoMA.
Stanczak was born in Borownica, Poland. The artist and his family were made to work at a Siberian labor camp during World War II. It was there that he developed encephalitis, which profoundly damaged his right arm. When he started making art, he could only use his left arm. It did not, however, impede his progress, as he was a prodigious maker of technically sophisticated and formally dense images. The artist managed to flee the camp and traveled through the Middle East and South Asia. He spent some time living in Uganda—the vivid coloration of his paintings was inspired by the sunsets he saw there. He went to the Cleveland Institute of Art for his undergraduate degree and received his MFA from Yale, where he studied under Josef Albers. He also taught at the Cleveland Institute from 1964 until 1995—Dana Schutz and April Gornik were among his students.
Stanczak’s paintings are in the collections of New York’s MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the San Francisco Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; the RISD Museum in Providence; the Milwaukee Art Museum; LACMA; and the Museo Tamayo and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, among other institutions. He has had exhibitions at many venues throughout the United States, including New York’s New Museum, Danese Gallery, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash (who represents the artist); the Cleveland Institute of Art; the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in Malibu; the San Jose Museum of Art; the Columbus Museum of Art; and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
In a review of the artist’s exhibition at MoCA Cleveland for the December 2009 issue of Artforum, Christopher Bedford wrote, “There is a great deal of romance and heroism to be found in the relationship between Stanczak’s early life and the work he has chosen to make. And while that kind of biographical cache does not always serve an artist’s critical reception—romance and heroism are hardly the picks of today’s critical litter—it should here. An already powerful body of work is made only more so when coupled with a consideration of the man who produced it.”