Tag: abstract painting

New ‘Simple’ Geometric Art

January 9th, 2012 | 3 Comments

I present to you my newest painting — a “simple” geometric artwork I call Variant.

simple geometric art
Simple geometric art: Variant. Acrylic on canvas. 48 inches (122 cm) square. 2011.

What makes this painting simple? Geometric art, as a genre, is characterized by repetitive shapes and motifs that often fill the entire picture plane, forming an allover pattern.

By contrast, although geometric, my newest painting takes a step back, allowing a series of stripes to interact simply with a pattern that appears to be just beginning to form. Neither the stripes, nor the pattern, become the geometric artwork’s focal point; the two elements achieve a fragile balance, framed by negative space.

The story behind this geometric painting is relatively simple, as well. I discovered this composition accidentally one night in late October, after four hours of mashing up patterns and shapes in Illustrator. The moment I arrived at this composition, I knew it had to be painted!

The happy accident that led to this painting only proves to me that as long as I experiment — no matter how long, laborious, or fruitless the process may seem — worthwhile results will follow. Four hours of going nowhere can lead to somewhere uncharted.


Julian Stanczak interview on Geoform.net

November 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments

I remember the first time I ever saw a painting by Julian Stanczak in person. It was at the Toledo Museum of Art, several years ago. Standing before And Then There Were Three, in all of its 4-foot-by-12-foot vastness, I literally felt myself being engulfed by the colors and forms before me. Green and red were banging against each other, forming a warm brown, vibrating against several rhythmic progressions of purples.

julian stanczak interview - and then there were three
And Then There Were Three by Julian Stanczak. 48 x 144 inches (122 cm x 3.7 m). 1971. Collection of Toledo Museum of Art. Photo by Faasdant via flickr.


I remember trying to focus on just one color — training my eyes to carefully scan the canvas from bottom to top edge, in a vertical line — and noted how my perception of that singular color changed, based on its proximity to other colors.

The more I gazed at And Then There Were Three, the more I fell into it, as if a gravitational pull had lured me into a radically different (and far more interesting) reality. I couldn’t pull myself away. I was in bliss.

That moment at Toledo Museum of Art changed my thinking about art and how I saw my own art. Julian Stanczak had joined my personal constellation of art superstars.

Ever since, I have followed the arc of Stanczak’s career with great interest. I have enjoyed the resurgence in interest in his work — as evidenced by his inclusion in the Optic Nerve, presented by Columbus Museum of Art in 2009, as well as CLE OP: Cleveland Op Art Pioneers, on view through February 26, 2012 at Cleveland Museum of Art.

The fact that Stanczak is a Clevelander — he resides in Seven Hills, one suburb east of where I grew up (Hint: It rhymes with “pharma.”) — who attended Cleveland Institute of Art around the time my mother did (ca. 1950), makes him even cooler.

Naturally, when Julie Karabenick, editor and curator of Geoform.net, contacted me last week to let me know that she had just posted an interview with Stanczak, I virtually flipped out. At first, I tried to read the interview on my phone, but quickly stopped once I realized how comprehensive it is.

Clocking in at more than 15,000 words (23 pages of 10-point type, without images, expertly led and transcribed by Karabenick), this interview is a definitive, tour de force window into how Stanczak sees his work, his influences, and his creative process. Read the complete interview on Geoform.net here.

“Color Meltdowns”

Several themes continually resurface throughout the interview. Stanczak’s love of color emerges early; he views color as “abstract, universal — yet personal and private in experience. It affects us emotionally, not logically as do tangible things.”

As the interview progresses, Stanczak’s insights take on a gravity not unlike Paul Klee’s near-mystical observations in The Thinking Eye, but with a playfulness and optimism shared by Verner Panton. You intimately sense Stanczak’s love for color, and his deep interest in creating a visual sensation for the viewer, through interactions between colors.

“I want to fuse many colorants and their gradations into a single color experience — a ‘color meltdown,'” he says. “I am interested in the glow of colors as they interact and intermix, as they give to each other. And there are many factors I must consider to achieve the desired meltdown.”

He speaks of his paintings as an “interactive fusion” of colors, where “visual elements lose their individuality for the sake of totality.” Stanczak’s canvases are surfaces upon which colors invite our eyes to mix them into entirely new colors, forming a “haze” or “glow” as they interact.

Nature as the greatest teacher

Unlike anything else, the natural world has challenged and inspired Stanczak to experiment with colors, forms, and its many sensations. The artist expresses an instinctual fascination with the geometry and visual rhythms that permeate life.

“More than any of my teachers, Nature directed me, and I gained more conviction through, for example, observing water reflections, river currents, wood grain or grasses swaying,” Stanczak says. “In many of my studies the rhythmic use of line or shape refers to weather and light.”

During his early teaching career in Cincinnati and Cleveland, in the late 1950s and early 1960s — a time of great isolation for the artist — nature was Stanczak’s one constant.

“With no one to promote my clean geometry, whom could I turn to for some kind of confirmation? — to Nature, as always,” he observes. “I have always felt that Nature harbors the answers to all my questions.”

Josef Albers

Stanczak’s recollections of Josef Albers, one of his professors at Yale, form a particularly fascinating section of Karabenick’s interview. The artist remembers:

At Yale one of the first lessons I heard from Albers was, “I cannot teach you your art!” Albers used destruction as a method of construction in his teaching. Anything you thought you knew was taken away. The principle was not to get attached to anything too early, but to keep looking, searching, and thinking. Albers made endless demands for you to be better, to be a more observant participant in life. You experienced total emancipation from what to do, how to do it and what to think.

[Albers] gave me the courage to explore color beyond the classroom. He gave me the mindset to accept questions as part of life’s energy. My paintings and my search for understanding of color were based on a step-by-step process of observation. My observations might not match those of another person, but they became my foundation to build upon. I was gratified that Albers chose to include one of my pieces in his Interaction of Color portfolio.

Albers emerges later in the interview, when Stanczak drove to New Haven to invite Albers to the opening of his first solo show in a New York gallery — Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings, at Martha Jackson Gallery in 1964. The exhibition’s title unnerved Stanczak, but particularly rankled Albers.

Stanczak remembers:

I found him aroused, pointing to the exhibition announcement in the paper. Without a greeting he said, ‘Your obligation is to correct that!’ I asked him what term he would use to describe the work, and he said ‘Perceptual painting.’ He was imperative about my responsibility to take action against something like this. I tried, but the term had already entered the public domain.

Stanczak viewed his paintings as an opportunity for “perceptual experience,” not purely optical experience. The latter was, in his opinion, a matter of merely “registering visual actions blindly.” Pattern and illusion — eye-attacking art-making tactics, on their own — never motivated Stanczak the way they did so many of his contemporaries.

Reading Karabenick’s interview is like a walk through time, spanning Stanczak’s life and the art currents surrounding and shaping him. The interview offers remarkable insights into one an artist’s lifelong approach toward color, form, and his highly individualistic art-making process — which undoubtedly has involved many miles of tape.

I consider this interview a gift that will continue to unfold new meanings as I re-read and reflect upon it, in a way very similar to seeing Stanczak’s paintings in person, up close. It is a master class that any artist can attend, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have experienced it.


Peter Halley: Artist Studio Visit

July 15th, 2011 | No Comments

When geometric artist Peter Halley opened the doors of his Chelsea studio to guests on July 10, 2011, James Kalm documented the event with a fascinating video.

Kalm’s video offers an first-hand look at Halley’s newest eye-popping paintings and studies, as well as his jaw-dropping inventory of fluorescent paints.

I’m beyond inspired! Nevermind this blog stuff … I’ve got to get back to painting!


Paintings by Grant Wiggins on view in Modern Phoenix Week home tour: “The Secrets of Sunnyslope”

April 7th, 2011 | No Comments

Win a framed digital print, signed by the artist, as a door prize of the free Modern Phoenix Week Expo, April 16

I am proud to say that I’m a part of this year’s Modern Phoenix Week in two fabulous ways.

modern phoenix home tour

First, I will be exhibiting several of my paintings in a Ralph Haver-designed residence on Central Ave. in Phoenix, as part of the upcoming Secrets of Sunnyslope home tour. The April 17 tour — which is sold out — offers a chance to see some of the Sunnyslope neighborhood’s finest midcentury and modern dwellings.

Second, I have contributed a signed, framed digital print as a door prize of the Modern Phoenix Expo, which will take place at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) on Saturday, April 16. (Please note: To be eligible to win a door prize, you must be present for that day’s 3:45 pm drawing.)


Three New Large Original Art Paintings

March 7th, 2011 | No Comments

Artistically speaking, my year started off in creative overdrive. Over the course of the first nine weeks of 2011, I muscled my way through 14 paintings, covering 12,436 square inches (more than 86 square feet, or 8 square meters) and incorporating practically every color in the spectrum. Today, I am finally able to take a well-deserved break.

Eleven of the new paintings are on display in 4square, a show that’s on view at Squeeze Gallery in Scottsdale through March 24. The other three works are large original art paintings in my characteristically geometric approach. Here, I’d like to introduce these new pieces to you and offer the story behind each.

large original art paintings
large original art paintings
large original art paintings
From top: Flat Warp, Meltdown, and Waveform.


Measuring 30 by 60 inches, Flat Warp is a painted realization of an idea I had two years ago for a wall mural. From corner to corner, the painting is covered with fluorescent paint. While producing this piece, the refracted light was so intense that room behind me seemed dark when I turned away from my easel — just like when you come inside after swimming on a bright summer day. Simply put, this painting was not intended to match your sofa!

At 70 by 48 inches, Meltdown also marks a return to a previously realized idea: a “paper painting” called Bad Taste Outerspace Meltdown, part of a series of eight works I exhibited in the Meltdown art show at Soyal Gallery last summer. The paper piece is quite small (6.5 by 4.625 inches) and was the product of experimenting with a pile of cut-up colored papers. Since I had so much fun making the paper piece — it developed so naturally and spontaneously — I have considered refashioning it into a larger acrylic painting numerous times over the ensuing months.

Waveform, the most recent painting of the three, measures 30 by 68 inches. It fits within the Sinewaves and Shockwaves collection of works I produced for my current Squeeze Gallery show. This painting originated as a digital sketch; in fact, I used this image as the header for my Winter 2011 email newsletter. (I encourage you to sign up for it.) I like how this painting offers a sense of dimension and space, but ultimately it’s a flat pattern.

Thank you for taking time to read about my newest works. I hope to make many more paintings throughout 2011!


New Photos of My Current Contemporary Art Exhibition in Scottsdale

February 12th, 2011 | No Comments

My current art show — 4square, a modern contemporary art exhibition at Squeeze Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona — opened Thursday evening.

I had a marvelous time. Some of my favorite people in all of Phoenix showed up to say hello and see new works by Richard Garrison, Ryan Peter Miller, Bart Vargas and yours truly.

Overall, I am showing 12 paintings in 4square, all of which are shown below. In the second photo from top, you’ll see a painting by Bart Vargas hanging on the free-standing wall.

I invite you to attend this modern contemporary art show, which will be on view at Squeeze Gallery until March 24, 2011.

modern contemporary art


In the studio January 17, 2010: Abstract pop art?

January 17th, 2010 | 2 Comments

abstract pop art
Work in progress: A painting called Hypermodic Spastaculatron, as of 5pm on January 17, 2010. Lots of fluorescent paint going on. Is it abstract pop art, or something entirely different?


The latest news from my studio is this:

My Spring/Summer 2010 collection of paintings is officially “on.” Projected launch date is May 15, 2010.

This will be a decidedly “maximalist” series of paintings. (See more in this style in my maximal abstract art gallery.) This will be a departure from my Fall 2009 Collection, which was focused completely on minimal, geometric compositions.

I am not sure whether labels from the 20th century, such “abstract” and “pop art” really define what I’m painting. (“Abstract pop art” doesn’t quite work, either!) What I’m painting is something new, something that defies categorization, something that hasn’t been seen before. I’m gathering new shapes, patterns, and colors and throwing them into the future.

A New Year’s ambition of mine is to paint one painting per week. The Spring/Summer collection would therefore roll out with 16 pieces, if I’m lucky. Year to date, I have completed 0 paintings. Today, I am still working on version #3 of painting #1 in the collection, shown above. I shall persist.

abstract pop art
Choosing my colors: In the studio on Saturday, January 16


All of this considered, I want to show you progress on my work as best as I can. Yet, I also want to keep the collection under wraps until the launch date. Therefore, I shall offer you glimpses of paintings in progress, when available. Just like above.


In the studio: March 10, 2009 – New abstract painting

March 10th, 2009 | No Comments

I’m not really into the term “abstract painting,” but since I really don’t know how to describe my art, then I have to settle with terms that the rest of the world uses. Abstract painting can mean anything to anyone. It’s almost a useless term.

That said, here’s a new abstract painting in the works. It’s called Acid Battleship Amylase, measures 60 inches square, and—thanks to a yummy fluoro yellow-chartreuse base—glows under blacklight.

The new abstract painting Acid Battleship Amylase

But wait! There’s more! Below is the original sketch for this new abstract painting. I think the blue paint I’ve chosen is a little off. I prefer the 0F72B1 that I see below.

The new abstract painting Acid Battleship Amylase

I haven’t ditched my maximalist style of painting. I may not feel like painting this way all of the time, because my mind changes and I go through phases. But when I do paint maximally, I’m out to produce the most radical structuring of shape and color possible, in my own way.

Some of my readers have suggested that they’re more interested in my maximalist style, compared with my minimalist style. I understand this … but there has to be room for both styles of new abstract painting in my creative life. I hope that makes sense. I haven’t lost anything … or given up on anything. If anything, I’m gaining; I’m working; I’m learning as I go.

Beyond that, I can’t stop listening to Ceephax Acid Crew, aka Andy Jenkinson. Check out the free downloads on his site. Be warned: The tunes are infectious.


New painting: Invisible Star

March 3rd, 2009 | 6 Comments

While I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog as of late, I’m making up the awkward paucity of posts by pumping out new work. I’ve been motoring away at new paintings lately; I have produced two larger-scale works in the space of three weeks.

Fresh off the easel, below is one of these new paintings, which I finished this evening. The new piece is titled Invisible Star. It measures 32 inches high by 66 inches wide, and is acrylic on canvas. I’ll post a better photo of it when time allows. Gotta split … there’s so much to do!

New Painting: Invisible Star
New painting: Invisible Star