Celebrating Julian Stanczak

by Marcy Robledo

julilan

The Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) celebrates the life and genius of Julian Stanczak, who taught at AAC from 1957 to 1964. Two paintings of Stanczak’s are on display in the AAC president’s office.  His impact to our school and the art world will never be forgotten.

Of his work, Julian Stanczak says, “Color cannot be measured so easily. Its energies are diffused in memory. We know color through our reaction to it. It becomes an experience. I constantly struggle for clarity and the intricate balance between container and what it contains. Since my biggest joy is to deal with color, the shape embracing the color is scrupulously chosen in order that it not prevail over the color situation but assist it. That is why I use mostly geometric shapes which one accepts without questioning particularities, thus giving the color full responsibility for visual plasticity.”

Julian Stanczak was born in Borownica, Poland, in 1928. Deported with his family to a Siberian labor camp in 1939, he endured hard labor, starvation, and abuse that caused deterioration of his right arm.  After living several years in a refugee camp, Stanczak reached America in 1950. Six years later, he received his M.F.A from Yale University, where he studied with Josef Albers and Conrad Marca-Relli.

In 1957, Stanczak joined the teaching staff of the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where he worked for seven years.  Often associated with the Op Art movement, he has always focused on the complexity of color relationships and their effect on forms and space. The term Op Art first appeared in a 1964 Time magazine article that sought to contextualize exhibitions such as Stanczak’s first solo show at Martha Jackson Gallery, “Optical Paintings,” which opened in September of 1964.

Stanczak work has been included in exhibitions in the U.S. and internationally since 1948. Important group shows include The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1965; Paintings in the White House at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1966; and Ghosts in the Machine at the New Museum, New York, 2012.

Significant surveys of his work include Julian Stanczak: 50 Year Retrospective, Cleveland Institute of Art, Ohio, 2001, and most recently Line Color Illusion: 40 Years of Collecting Julian Stanczak, Akron Art Museum, Ohio, 2013. Stanczak’s work is included in notable collections such as Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.