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Stanczaks take parallel paths to beauty

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cummings Gallery at Mercyhurst University presents “Organic Forms and Pulsating Lines: Works of Barbara and Julian Stanczak” Nov. 14 through Dec. 18.

The Stanczaks, husband-and-wife artists who each taught for more than 30 years at the Cleveland Institute of Art, are renowned for creating very different works of art.

Barbara Stanczak has focused for the past 30 years on carving in wood and stone. Her sculptures reveal nature’s secrets, which she releases in intuitive forms of intimacy and imagination.

Julian Stanczak’s curiosity about color perception led him to make color his intense pursuit for the past 60 years. In the pioneering spirit of the Op Art movement, he fills his canvases with complex color relationships that transform paint and geometric shapes into an experience of the intangible and the mysterious.

Both artists will be present for the exhibit’s opening reception on Thursday, Nov. 17, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Barbara Stanczak was born in Hamm, Germany, in 1941. She apprenticed with a mural painter, executing wall mosaics for a church and later studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Münster. In 1960 she came to the United States, where she worked on church frescos and enrolled at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, majoring in painting and printmaking and minoring in sculpture and graphic design.

She went on to earn her B.F.A. and M.A. in art education and art history from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art. Married since 1963, she and Julian have two children. She taught two- and three-dimensional design at the Cleveland Institute of Art for 36 years.

Her sculptures are held in multiple private and public collections, including The Butler Museum of American Art, the Housatonic Museum of Art and The Cleveland Clinic. She has been awarded the Judson Smart Living Award for contribution to excellence in education from Cleveland’s University Circle and the Viktor Schreckengost Teaching Award from The Cleveland Institute of Art. Barbara’s sculptures have been shown in many solo and group exhibitions, including Director’s Choice at The Canton Museum of Art and Barbara Stanczak: Intuitive Parallels at The Butler Museum of American Art.

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. Once freed from the gulag, they made their way south, living for several years in refugee camps.

He reached America in 1950 and in 1956 received his M.F.A from Yale University, where he studied with Josef Albers and Conrad Marca-Relli. 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 that year.

His 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. His 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.

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.” 

Cummings Gallery, located in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center at Mercyhurst, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. The gallery will be closed Nov. 23-27 during the university’s Thanksgiving break.

For information, call 814-824-2092 or email