Julian Stanczak (b. 1928)
Painter Julian Stanczak’s need for original expression led him to create a wholly new genre: optical art.
Julian Stanczak was born in Borownica, Poland in 1928. The son of Jewish parents, Stanczak was sent to a forced labor camp in Siberia following the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 where, under captivity, he lost the use of his right arm. Stanczak escaped the camp and fled to Persia to join the Polish Army in exile. Distraught by what he saw as the impotence of the nationless military, Stanczak deserted and relocated to Uganda where he learned to write and paint left-handed.
Stanczak moved to London after the end of World War II where he briefly attended the Borough Polytechnic Institute before resettling once again, this time in America. He pursued an education in the arts, earning a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1954 before enrolling at the Yale School of Art and Architecture where, under the instruction of such artists as Josef Albers and Conrad Marcia-Relli, he earned his MFA in 1956. He received his first major solo exhibition, “Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings,” in 1964.
Stanczak thinks of himself primarily as a colorist whose work proceeds from the understanding that color is a physical human reaction to varying frequencies of light radiation. He uses the interaction between complimentary and contrasting colors to play with perception, cause a form of cognitive confusion and engage the viewer both emotionally and rationally as he considers the work. True to the spirit of the 1960s, apprehending a Stanczak painting is an “experience”.
While optical art experienced a significant decline in popularity following its meteoric rise in the mid 1960’s, Stanczak’s work has been rediscovered in recent years by galleries and collectors alike. His current market is very strong. In 2012, Bloomberg News and Artnet.com ranked Stanczak at #6 on their list of “15 Hottest Artists in the World”. Works by Stanczak are held by museums and institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.