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Artist Julian Stanczak celebrated at Akron Art Museum

4/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Julian Stanczak’s “It’s Not Easy Being Green” is on view at the Akron Art Museum.
Photo courtesy of the Akron Art Museum
DOWNTOWN AKRON — “And the first shall be last” just might be the motto for Akron Art Museum’s current exhibition, Line Color Illusion: 40 Years of Julian Stanczak, which will be on display through Nov. 3.

According to museum Chief Curator Janice Driesbach, optical artist Julian Stanczak tends to work in what she termed four “signature themes” — transparencies, line condensations, grids or lumina paintings, and wiggles or crests.

The exhibition showcases paintings and prints by Stanczak, an internationally renowned artist who currently lives in Seven Hills, collected by the museum since 1970, according to museum officials.

Driesback said Stanczak’s current interest is the wiggles or crests technique, a theme he began with some 40 years ago. For that reason, and perhaps some others, the exhibit is organized thematically and not chronologically, said Driesbach, and the museum can exhibit earlier and later works side-by-side to show both the artist’s continuing interests and his development over the years.

Stanczak is fascinated with the idea of color and how we perceive it. He’s also interested in abstract art, a predilection that got him in trouble as a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art years ago, according to museum officials. The two interests came together in solid enough form that a New York gallery owner, Martha Jackson, who was traveling through the Midwest and happened upon Stanczak’s solo exhibition, decided to feature his creations in a New York show, according to museum officials.

Though Stanczak preferred to call his work a reflection of “perpetual abstraction,” Jackson promoted her show as “Optical Painting,” which the media picked up on as Op Art, according to museum officials. And thus the movement was born, thanks to the artist and his enthusiastic admirer.

A test viewers can give themselves as they meander slowly by Stanczak’s works is to guess how many colors are represented in the piece. Don’t worry, some of the descriptions of the works give it away, but art-goers should test themselves in any case.

For instance, Stanczak used simple black and white in one of his transparencies pieces called “Intravert I.” When studied and mused upon, a viewer can begin to see other shades — purple somehow coming through as one tone. How does the artist do it? How indeed.

In his “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” one might think in this grid work there are two basic colors being employed — blue and green. On closer study, there are actually 45 different colors, making one think the idea of 40 shades of Irish green just grew larger.

Stanczak’s technique is through the juxtaposition of color and through the closeness or distance between separations of the colors. Stanczak may begin by painting a canvas black or white, or green or blue, and then apply stripes of tape (from his own tape machine) in varying distances between lines before he applies the second or 44th color. According to Stanczak, the eye does the rest. It makes connections and tries to apply some kind of order to what it is looking at.

When looking at his works, one is likely to notice how much fluidity there is in them. It’s hard to continue to stare at only one place on the canvas, for the lines and grids and angles draw the eye from side to side, from place to place, and in doing so, let the viewer become aware of how much more color he or she is beginning to see.

All that experience is summed up in Stanczak’s hope; he wants the viewer to be “awash in color,” said Driesbach.

All the works represented in this exhibition either belong to the museum or are promised to the museum in the future. There is, in fact, one work given by the artist himself recently (because of this show) that is dedicated to Mitchell Kahan, recently retired director of the museum.

The museum has small catalogs or stiff-backed brochures in bins on the wall of the gallery that are free for the public to take. They are really nice and are quite a token.

Adult general admission is $7; students and seniors cost $5; and children (17 and younger) and members are free. On the third Thursday of every month, individual admission to the galleries is free. Special exhibitions may require paid admission.

The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, visit www.AkronArtMuseum.org.


Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and an avid art enthusiast. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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