March 28, 2017
Julian Stanczak, Central Figure of Op Art Movement, Dies at 88
ArtNet News, 03/28/2017
Alex Greenberger


Julian Stanczak, Central Figure of Op Art Movement, Dies at 88
ArtNet News, 03/28/2017
Alex Greenberger

Julian Stanczak, the Op art painter who, despite physical difficulties, managed to create canvases with vibrant geometries and hypnotic motion, died in his home in Seven Hills, Ohio on March 25. He was 88.

Stanczak was one of the leaders of the short-lived Op art movement in the 1960s. He was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1965 exhibition “The Responsive Eye,” which also featured work by Bridget Riley, Gunter Uecker, and Victor Vasarely. Although today considered groundbreaking for its emphasis on perception and its critical look at what a painting could be, the show was savaged by critics. Thomas B. Hess, writing for ARTnews, called the show a case of “acute Exhibitionemia,” for the way it lumped together unlike artists.

Yet a few critics recognized that Stanczak was doing something different from the other artists in this show. Donald Judd, the artist and critic often credited with originating the term “Op art,” once wrote that Stanczak’s work had a “painterly expressiveness,” making it different from other Op art that privileged formal experimentation over engaging viewers.

Stanczak’s acrylic paintings often tended toward brightly colored shapes and grids. Typically made through contrasting unlike hues, Stanczak was able to create compositions that are jarring to the eye. They highlight the act of seeing, in the process showing that, when we look at two unlike forms put together, an unexpected element can result: movement. His paintings suggested Abstract Expressionism for an age of rapid technological innovation.

Many critics, Judd included, have been quick to see Stanczak’s work through the lens of his personal life. Julian Stanczak was born in Borownica, Poland, in 1928. He and his family were forced to work on a labor camp in Siberia during World War II. In his time there, he developed encephalitis, which ultimately rendered his right arm unusable. When he started painting, he was forced to work solely with his left arm, yet despite his handicap, he always worked alone, obsessively piling lines and shapes of various densities on his canvases by himself.

Stanczak escaped from the labor camp when he was 14. He traveled through the Middle East and South Asia, ultimately settling in Uganda. The unnaturally bright colors of his paintings were inspired by the African sunsets he witnessed there.

After studying art in London, Stanczak immigrated in 1950 to America, where he studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art. At Yale University, where he would later receive an M.F.A., Stanczak took classes with Josef Albers, the modernist painter, who taught him about color theory and geometry.

Stanczak himself was a prolific teacher. He was a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1964 to 1995; his students included April Gornik and Dana Schutz. Yet even many who didn’t study with him seem to bear his influence, including emerging artists whose digitally minded paintings create jarring juxtapositions between people, grids, and background elements.

For Stanczak, his work was always about color and its dramatic effects. He was a formalist at heart—a painter aware of the very mechanics behind his paintings—but one whose work had a surprising emotional undercurrent. “Color is abstract, universal,” he once said, adding that, in addition to being a formal element, it’s also “personal and private in experience.”

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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