PULLMAN, Wash. — The exhibit “Optical Reaction: The Art of Julian Stanczak – A 50 Year Retrospective,” featuring works spanning the career of “Op-Art” pioneer Julian Stanczak, opens Jan. 14 at the Washington State University Museum of Art with a reception.
Exhibition curator Neil Rector will discuss, “Geometric Impressionism: Color and Light in the Paintings of Julian Stanczak” at the 7 p.m. reception at the museum. Following the talk, music will be performed by “3 Colors,” an improvisational trio from Moscow, Idaho.
Stanczak (pronounced “Stine-check”) was one of the leading artists involved in the creation of the “Op Art” movement of the 1960s. His use of optical mixture and color interaction is considered one of the most sophisticated in the history of art.
The expression “Op Art” (short for optical art) evolved from the title of a 1964 exhibition “Julian Stanczak – Optical Paintings,” shown at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York. A Time magazine article about the exhibition shortened “optical” to “Op” and thus the art movement was named.
Stanczak objected to the expression “Optical Art,” believing the term implied optical illusion and visual trickery. Instead, Stanczak felt that he captures the essence of what he sees when he looks at the world and then places the distilled visual experience on canvas, inviting the viewer to provide his or her own meaning and emotional response to the painting.
Stanczak was born in Poland in 1928 during a time of political instability. In 1940, his family was forced into a Siberian labor camp, where Stanczak suffered brutal beatings and serious illness, eventually resulting in the loss of the use of his right arm. At age 13 he lied about his age to join the Polish army. He was forced to desert when his health continued to deteriorate. He rejoined his mother and siblings at a refugee camp near Teheran. The family then traveled with other Polish refugees to India and eventually to the jungles of British Uganda, where they lived for seven years.
While in Africa he taught himself to paint, and his experiences while living there greatly influenced his art in the years to come. After World War II, the family was granted permanent residence in England. The family traveled from Uganda to their new home in England by way of Nairobi, Kenya, where the first exhibition of Stanczak’s work was held. He was 17.
While in London, Stanczak attended the Borough Polytechnic Institute where he studied anatomy, life drawing, figure painting, book illustration, calligraphy and art history. He spent his free time exploring galleries and becoming familiar with the world of art. His family moved to the United States in 1950, finally settling in Cleveland, Ohio, where Stanczak attended the Cleveland Institute of Art.
After graduation he was accepted at Yale University, studying under Josef Albers. After receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale, he taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati until 1964. He then returned to the Cleveland Institute of Art, this time as a professor of painting. He retired from the Institute of Art in 1995 and continues to live in Cleveland.
The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, has produced a color catalog in conjunction with this retrospective exhibition. A limited number of these catalogs are available for purchase by contacting the museum office.
The exhibition will be on display through Sunday, Feb. 24. It is organized by International Arts & Artists of Washington, D.C.
The event is free and open to the public. The museum is open Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. The museum will be closed Jan. 21 and will be open by appointment Feb. 18; appointments may be scheduled by calling the museum at (509) 335-1910.
For more information, contact Roslyn Wise of the museum at (509) 335-1910.