A Frisson in Line, Shape, and Color
Barbara and Julian Stanczak at Mercyhurst University's Cummings Gallery
The exhibit Organic Forms & Pulsating Lines brings together the artworks of husband and wife Barbara and Julian Stanczak. At first glance, one might think their pieces would not go well together. One would be wrong.
It's true their bodies of work stand alone in skill, expression, and temperament, and that in many ways, their pieces are formally in opposition to one another – Barbara exploring natural elements and organic form in three dimensions; Julian focusing on two-dimensional line and color. When exhibited collectively, however, they offer an opportunity to explore the diverse ways lines operate within works of art.
Julian has been studying the properties of line and color through techniques of Op Art, an abstract genre that builds optical illusions from the precise placement of lines, shapes, and color. The result is a sense of movement or distortion of space.
Julian has worked mostly with "the complexity of color relationships and their effect on forms and space." "Laced with Blue" displays this methodology at work. Thousands of small, tightly articulated blue squares are knitted together with precisely drawn yellow and black lines which overlay fields of green and purple. The painting hums with motion, the viewer's eyes moving in and out between the background and foreground, the elements taking turns receding and coming forward.
His artist statement says art must "transcend the pain of daily life, overcome the ordinary, in order to come to another visual plateau." And surely these works transcend, taking the viewer into a different visual, if not emotional, state.
Barbara, on the other hand, has worked in sculpture for most of her artistic career. Her influence is nature, and she says in her artist statement the media she uses are "mainly nature-made, materials that have the history of the earth and the story of their lifecycle imprinted in their veins and textures."
What results are works with sensuous, curved, irregular lines and shapes, often with rough live edges joined with highly worked surfaces. This allows the pieces to become what Barbara wanted them to be but still honors the essence of the material from which they were made.
This technique can be seen in "Stages of the Moon-Full" and "Stages of the Moon-Crescent," in which the smooth circle and crescent shapes are surrounded by unworked edges of white Italian marble. The translucent quality of the stone and the light reflecting off the polished surfaces evoke the cool silver of a winter moon.
"Golden Pod," conversely, has completely worked surfaces. In "Pod," Barbara suggests the idea of a rounded seed case with scooped out negative space at the top of a squared off piece of cherry. She then added luxurious gold and green inside the cups to depict nature as the ultimate gem.
Together, the pieces push and pull the viewer's eyes from the crisp edges in Julian's work to the softer undulating contours of Barbara's in an enjoyable, moving dialogue. One in which the viewer is always welcome. You could say they marry well.
Through Dec. 18 // 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday – Friday; 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday & Sunday; closed Nov. 23-27 // 824.2902 // miac.mercyhurst.edu/facilities/cummings-art-gallery/
Mary Birdsong can be contacted at mBirdsong@ErieReader.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @Mary_Birdsong.