by Marta Smolińska. Muze SA, Warsaw, October 2014. 317 p. ill. ISBN 9788377588192, $120.00.
Reviewed May 2015
Nadine Speidel, Public Services Librarian, Cuyahoga County Public Library, email@example.com
Marta Smolińska, professor at the Universities of Arts in Poznań, Poland, and Munich, Germany, offers us one of the most perceptive books published on the artist Julian Stańczak. Whereas in previous monographs, the focus might have been on Stańczak's dramatic biography, or his fit into the role of "father of Op Art," Smolińska delves into the power of the paintings themselves. Her exactness in developing the story of the paintings, descriptions of their color, light, and dynamics is eye opening. Smolińska's essay is in Polish and translated into English, which complements the international accessibility of the art itself.
The reader is immersed in the artist's oeuvre, starting with a self-portrait at age sixteen, moving through the young artist's desire to capture the dramatic atmosphere in Africa, to the pivotal Red Christ after studying at Yale University with Josef Albers, and beyond to an optical and geometric mastery. Smolińska documents Stańczak's national attention gained when the term "Op Art" was coined after his solo exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery and reinforced by The Responsive Eye exhibition at MOMA in 1965. We learn about Stańczak's persistent search for an "ism;" his discovery that color has the power to move the psyche without referring to the self; his true identity as a musician, which morphed into creating "music" with paint; and eventually his self-definition as a colorist.
Via a tightly ordered series of chapters with over 300 full page illustrations of paintings spanning six decades, and the complete listings of museums, exhibitions, collections, and bibliography, Smolińska allows us to take a journey with the artist, to find interaction while being physically engaged in the viewing process, "the between" where we find that universal something, not only in the artist, but in ourselves. Stańczak states, "I do not believe one finds art in an object but that one finds art in oneself by being confronted with an object." This new monograph on Julian Stańczak reveals the many forms his visionary art employs, and Smolińska, like an artist herself, is able to make his art assessable to others through precise analysis and emotive insights into the process of seeing.