Op Out of Ohio: Anonima Group, Richard Anuszkiewicz, & Julian Stanczak in the 1960s, D. Wigmore Fine Art, New York, NY

Julian Stanczak, Untitled #15, 1969
Acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

April 15 – July 9, 2010

D. Wigmore announces the exhibition with catalogue, Op Out of Ohio: Anonima Group, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Julian Stanczak in the 1960s. The exhibition will feature over 30 paintings from 1959 to 1970 by Richard Anuszkiewicz (b.1930), Julian Stanczak (b.1928), and the three artists of the Anonima Group: Ernst Benkert (b.1928), Francis Hewitt (1936-1992), and Ed Mieczkowski (b.1929). A highlight will be four paintings from the Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking 1965 exhibition The Responsive Eye, curated by William Seitz, which placed optical, kinetic, and concrete art into one perception-based movement which the press dubbed “Op Art.”

Each of the artists in the exhibition studied or taught at Ohio institutions. Richard Anuszkiewicz and Julian Stanczak met as undergraduates at the Cleveland Institute of Art in the early 1950s before both studied at Yale University with Josef Albers from 1954-1956. Stanczak returned to the Cleveland Institute in 1964 to teach painting, which he did until 1995. Francis Hewitt and Ernst Benkert met as graduate students at Oberlin College in 1959. After meeting as students at Carnegie Tech in the mid-1950s, Hewitt and Ed Mieczkowski both taught at the Cleveland Institute in the early 1960s. Mieczkowski continued to teach there until 1990.

The Anonima Group, all artists interested in the psychology of perception and the European Constructivists, did their first work together at Ernst Benkert’s Springs, Long Island studio the summer of 1960. The group was unique in the United States, but its formation paralleled such European groups as Gruppo N and Gruppo T in Italy; Zero in Germany; and Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visual (GRAV) in France. After several exhibitions in Cleveland, the Anonima Group had its first New York exhibition in 1964. In the winter of 1964-1965 they participated in major exhibitions of perceptual art: Vibrations 11 at Martha Jackson Gallery and Mouvement II at Galerie Denise René in Paris, as well as MoMA’s The Responsive Eye in February 1965. In 1966 the Anonima Group’s project Black/White and Gray 24” Square, with ten paintings by each artist, was exhibited in New York and at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and Galeria Foksal in Warsaw. Anonima participated in the New Tendencies exhibitions in Zagreb in 1965 and 1969.

The Anonima Group set up a loft on West 28th Street in 1966 which functioned as a shared studio for the three artists and an exhibition space for Anonima’s work, as well as for their students. The artists developed a four-year plan to examine the four perceptual cues that create the reading of spatial dimension on a two-dimensional surface: overlap, relative size change, brightness ratio, and light and shade. Over the course of a year for each project, the group painted alongside each other using the same limit while creating independent work. Each project was then exhibited in the Anonima Gallery. D. Wigmore’s exhibition includes six examples from the group’s first project Perceptual Inquiry I: Overlap, exhibited in April 1967.

Richard Anuszkiewicz and Julian Stanczak are considered the two students who most embraced Josef Albers’s theories on color interaction. Anuszkiewicz’s work applied the latest findings in color theory and visual perception to measured, geometric compositions of precise linear patterns within gridded or square formats, which often emanate outwards from the center of the canvas. Stanczak applied the same knowledge to nature-inspired compositions of wiggles and juxtapositions of curved and angular forms, which radiate energy and internal illumination. With two different approaches, Anuszkiewicz and Stanczak express the excitement of color and make an event of the act of seeing.

The Museum of Modern Art purchased a painting by Anuszkiewicz in 1960 from the artist’s first New York solo exhibition at The Contemporaries. The D. Wigmore exhibition includes one of Anuszkiewicz’s paintings exhibited in MoMA’s Americans 1963 (The Harpist and Nine Muses, 1963), as well as the artist’s All Things Do Live in the Three, 1963 exhibited in The Responsive Eye. Julian Stanczak had his first solo exhibition in New York in the fall of 1964 at Martha Jackson Gallery. The exhibition’s title Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings played on the growing talk of the “optical” style; the exhibition led artist and critic Donald Judd to use the term “Op Art” for the first time in print in his review of the exhibition for Arts Magazine. Stanczak and his teacher Albers preferred the use of “perceptual art” to describe these paintings which engaged the viewer’s eye and mind, but critics preferred Op as a counter to “Pop Art.” The D. Wigmore exhibition will have a major 1970 painting by Stanczak titled Burning Through, #III. Two other examples from this series are in the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection and the Carnegie Museum of Art.