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Julian Stanczak (1928-2017)

Sectional Composite (set of 5 prints: A = edition no. 64/75, B = edition no. 60/75, C = edition no. 60/75, D = edition no. 66/75, and E = edition no. 60/75), 1981. Printed by Vistec Graphics (Rochester, N.Y.) on commission of Eugene Schuster.

Materials: Color silkscreen printed on paper, each 37" x 16”.

Location at Summa Health:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, first floor, H elevator lobby.

About the art and the artist

This 5-part series of screen prints in the Summa Collection exemplifies the warmth and vibrancy of color that Julian Stanczak used in a non-referential and abstract way. In painting and prints, Stanczak created contrasts between geometric forms and areas of intricately interrelated hues as he explores color theory (how colors interact with one another and with the beholder). The print medium allows for multiples of each finished work: Here is a short video of how the stencil is created in order to make a print; and here is a quick look at using multiple screens, as Julian did, to print more than a single color).

Since print creates multiples, the artist decides how many prints in total s/he wants to make (that is, the “edition”); that becomes the denominator. Then each successive print “pulled” from the press becomes the numerator. In the case of Sectional Composite, the artist decided to print a total of 75 groups of 5. In this work, prints range from 60/75, 64/75, to 66/75. Thus, each of the prints in it were among the final 16 prints made from the matrix.

Polish-born artist Julian Stanczak came to Ohio after World War II and after earning a Master of Fine Arts at Yale University to begin teaching, first in Cincinnati and then in Cleveland. He, his wife Barbara Stanczak, and their children have been long-time residents of Northeast Ohio. Stanczak became a leading international exponent of the Optical Art (“Op Art”) movement, which took its name from his very first New York exhibition in 1964.

Julian Stanczak (photo by Robert Muller, Cleveland Institute of Art)

We are fortunate to have several videos which document how Stanczak (pictured; click on the picture to see an artist interview) began to create his paintings and those concepts that guided him. On Stanczak’s website, a chronological selection of works allows you to enlarge each in order to follow how his investigations into color developed and deepened with time through both paintings and prints. You will be able to understand where Sectional Composite fits into his explorations in color relationships and intensities. And you will certainly recognize the features of color relationships that caused his paintings and prints to be described as “Op art”. He is acknowledged a leading exponent of that international movement, although he preferred to describe his own work as "perceptual abstraction."

Stanczak won the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1969 and was again recognized by the CAP in 2015 as a Special Honoree for his distinguished career. An injury to his right arm as a young man, during the war, meant that all his mature work was created using the hand that was not the one with which he had first learned to draw, paint, and write. He downplayed this fact, and you might never have known until you reached out to shake his hand:We have to admire even more the precision, depth, and determination evident in all of Stanczak’s work. 

His creative production, continuing long past retirement from teaching generations of artists at the Cleveland Institute of Art, earned him a prominent place in the history of the art of the second half of the 20th century and beyond.

Winston Manor, at the corner of Prospect and East 9th in downtown Cleveland

Learn more about this artist and his work:

The best introduction to Julian Stanczak’s life, art, and ideas, in addition to many candid images revealing his sense of humor, can be found on his website. You can also see his work in many galleries in Northeast Ohio, in New York, and in Los Angeles.Closer to home, his colossal 14-story mural of 1973, "City Canvas — Carter Manor," now called Winston Manor at the corner of Prospect and East 9th Streets in downtown Cleveland (click on the picture to learn more) was re-created for Front International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in the summer of 2018. Many museums in the U.S. and around the world have paintings and prints by this internationally celebrated artist in their collections, so keep an eye out as you travel.

The healing arts at Summa Health


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