Born in Borowinca, Poland in 1928, Julian Stanczak’s early life was wrought with hardship. At the beginning of World War II, Stanczak was forced into a Siberian Labor camp where he lost the use of his right arm. His family fled to Tehran, where he and his father joined the exiled Polish army, Stanczak was just 14 at the time. His teenage years were spent in a Polish refugee camp in Uganda where the young artist learned to write and paint using his left hand. In Uganda, Stanczak was profoundly impacted by the grandeur of nature - the light and colors of the African sunsets and the abundant “visual energy”.
In 1950, after two years in London, his family settled in Cleveland, Ohio and Stanczak promptly enrolled in The Cleveland Institute of Art, receiving his bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1954. He studied under Josef Albers and Conrad Marcarelli at Yale University, and received his Masters of Fine Arts in 1956. In 1957, Stanczak officially became a US citizen and accepted a position at the Art Academy of Cincinnati where he would teach painting for the next seven years.
The term Op Art was coined by Donald Judd in response to Stanczak’s first major show, Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings at Martha Jackson Gallery, in 1964 and in 1965, he participated in the Museum of Modern Art’s paramount exhibition, The Responsive Eye. Stanczak accepted a teaching position at the Cleveland Institute of Art where he would remain until 1995, and was named Outstanding American Educator by the Educators of America in 1970. In 2017, Julian Stanczak died at his home in Seven Hills, Ohio. He remains one of the most influential founders of the Op Art movement and his glowing, rhythmic paintings have been shown in exhibitions across the globe and are housed in the collections of over 90 American institutions.
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