Ed Mieczkowski IN MEMORIAM (1929-2017)
VIBRATIONS OF THE EYE, MIND AND SOUL
Ed Mieczkowski IN MEMORIAM (1929-2017)
Vibrations of the Eye, Mind and Soul February 23-March 25.2018
LewAllenGalleries Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
cover: Extrend, 1964, acrylic on canvas 40" x 36"
Vibrations of the Eye, Mind and Soul
Edwin Mieczkowski, who died in June of 2017, was a well-recognized pioneer of Op Art in the 1960s and an artist who during the next five decades went on to make significant contributions to both the Op and Geometric Abstraction movements. LewAllen Galleries has represented the work of this remarkable artist for more than ten years and now presents Vibrations of the Eye, Mind and Soul, a memorial survey exhibition honoring Mieckowski’s 60-year career dedicated to making art that dealt inventively with all three realms suggested by the show’s title.
purity. As a beloved professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Mieczkowski also shared his rigorous and often-idiosyncratic ideas about art with thousands of students. In an obituary that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he was described as being “without question … the most influential artist who lived in Cleveland during the second half of the twentieth century.” That stature was demonstrated when, in 2004—with Mieczkowski lying in a Houston hospital awaiting emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm—bulldozers threatened to level his Cleveland studio containing his lifetime’s work. An urgent alert was put out by a local art writer and within hours dozens of art lovers responded and a rescue caravan of cars and trucks relocated and saved Mieczkowski’s art in the nick of time.
Mieczkowski’s legacy—secure in post-World War II American art history—is defined both by his dazzling pictorial strategies of perceptual abstraction and by his later work that moves beyond just Op: lively compositions examining more closely not only the mechanism, but also the poetry of how we see, and the relationship of the eye with both the mind and the soul.
The LewAllen exhibition explores Mieczkowski's diverse artistic experiments with physical science and visual geometry as sources for aesthetic stimulation in two and three dimensions. Defining his own sense of the avant-garde over his long career, Mieczkowski’s art continually plumbed the possibilities of geometry, mathematics, nuclear physics, optics and the science of light and the visible spectrum. He created a vibrant body of paintings, sculptures, and multi-media constructions with a visual energy achieved through the lively arrangement of shapes, lines, and colors, both intuitive and carefully studied.
His career is as fabled as his work is innovative. Mieczkowski’s paintings were included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1965 landmark Responsive Eye exhibition—the major initial consideration of the international Optical Art phenomenon of the 1960s. It was also featured in Time magazine’s 1964 article, “Op Art: Pictures that Attack the Eye,” the first printed instance of the term used to describe the then-burgeoning artistic movement based on retinal stimulation and perception. It was again featured in the major exhibition Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s, held at the Columbus Museum of Art in 2007.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1929, Mieczkowski studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he later taught for nearly four decades. Unlike many of his peers in the Op and Geometric Abstraction movements, Mieczkowski by choice spent most of his career out of the commercial limelight. He was well-known in academic, museum and
Mieczkowski co-founded in 1960 the commercially abstemious artist collective, the Anonima group, whose members ideologically resisted the art world’s blandishments of personal fame and financial success in favor of artistic 2
art criticism circles for his place in the history of 20th century American Art as a leader of the Op Art and evolving Geometric Abstraction movements, and has seen a remarkable renewal and spotlight on his art in recent years. As the title Vibrations of the Eye, Mind and Soul attests, this selection of works is inspired by Mieczkowski’s own professed life-long dedication to making works that are impossible to dismiss.
stract expressionism popular in New York City at the same time (Mieczkowski himself referred to this movement as a “cult of emotional expressionism”). The Anonima artists’ mode of abstract art was a deliberate, disciplined practice informed by the rigorous principles of science, mathematics, and technical precision rather than overt expressionism or the aesthetic semantics of painterly abstraction. Sharing studio space in Cleveland and New York City, and even opening an artist-run gallery in an old dress shop in downtown Cleveland, the Anonima artists proudly eschewed commercialism and often refused to exhibit or even sign their work. Tellingly, Mieczkowski preferred the term “perceptual abstraction” to “Op Art,” which was a term coined by the press.
EYE Throughout his career, Mieczkowski’s art presented a singular vision that married precision with a lively, aesthetic use of color and a striking sense of gesture that activated both physiological and emotional response. As such, his significant contributions to both the Op and Geometric Abstraction movements characteristically mediated an active collaboration between artist and viewer. Mieczkowski felt that a key part of his art must include the response his pictorial strategies engendered, and without that involvement, he considered his work to be incomplete.
Mieczkowski’s art made as a member of the Anonima group is enfolded in finely considered systems of shards, planes, lines and angles, in both black and white and richly graded color as in Cornered II (1963) and Extrend (1964). These works are excellent examples of perceptual art, showcasing his investigation into the visual effects of mathematically mapped-out networks of lines and planes. Another series he worked on during this time was his Bloc paintings, which seem to glow as if possessing a light from within, built through carefully constructed gradients of value and hue. Works like these read as important landmarks within the growing movement of Op Art.
This resolute commitment to the interactive function of visual art formed an important basis for the Anonima group, a small artist collective founded in 1960 and comprised of Mieczkowski, Ernst Benkert, and Francis Hewitt, that sought to explore the effects of geometry and hue upon visual perception. At the forefront of a sea-change in abstract art that would grow into what became the Op Art Movement, the Anonima group’s style arranged complex relationships between points, planes, lines and angles to simulate dimensional space and confound vision. Classic examples of these visual investigations include Mieczkowski’s Anon (1961) and Study for Iso-Rounds and Bumpers (1964).
“Man’s eyes are not windows, although he has long regarded them as such,” reads the first line of Time magazine’s landmark 1964 article on Op Art (Mieczkowski’s painting, Adele’s Class Ring, appeared on page 84 of that issue). The publication of the Time article signified the arrival on the public stage of the Op Art movement, a new art-world rival to abstract expressionism at a time when AbEx was losing its luster as the forefront of the American avant-garde.
The group was formed partially in response to what the artists saw as the egoism and “unconscious hand” of ab3
And so the mid-1960s was an exciting time for the Anonima artists, heralding a new chapter in the careers of artists who had dismissed commercial success as secondary to the purity of their artistic pursuits. Mieczkowski, who was just beginning his extended teaching career at the Cleveland Institute of Art, saw his paintings’ inclusion in the first major museum exhibition of Op Art in 1965, The Responsive Eye, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, alongside other important perceptual artists such as Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, Julian Stanzcak, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Carlos Cruz-Diaz, Ad Reinhardt, Jesús Rafael Soto and Bridget Riley.
like Red Crane (1982) and Dark Crane (1982) reference the industrial landscape of the Cleveland waterfront and stockyards with its cranes and ships, and the railroads and bridges of Pittsburgh, where he lived with his family as a young boy. These works suggest an intersection between industry and nature through overlapping kaleidoscopic shapes and majestic diagonal lines. The Crane series is fascinating in taking visual cue from the geometric principles of Op and Perceptual art while also manifesting the artist’s physical joy in the sheer materiality of paint and texture. To art writers and museum curators, Mieczkowski’s art had always stood out in its marriage of Op-inflected precision with a lively aesthetic use of color, and its striking sense of gesture and brushwork, as in Feb 28, 1971, 1:30 PM (1971), Blue Dock and Crane (1987) and Square Rack Series #33 (1974). In 1979, Edward Henning, then the Chief Curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Cleveland, noted Mieczkowski’s willingness to depart from the controls of the systems that other Op artists had insisted upon. “Of the group, he reminds one most of Cézanne as opposed to Seurat or Mondrian,” he wrote, “particularly in his synthesis of painterly qualities with structural order.”
Between 1964-1966, during the heyday of Op Art and despite his previous reluctance to do so, Mieczkowski allowed his work to be exhibited in New York City at the gallery of the influential art dealer Martha Jackson, and in Paris, Warsaw, London, and even Zagreb, Croatia (then Yugoslavia). Through the explosion of Op Art on the world stage, Mieczkowski was a key figure in the development of a new visual language in contemporary art. MIND In 1967, Mieczkowski began a two-year sabbatical from teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and moved with his family (and four kids in tow) to New York City to teach at the Pratt Institute and Cooper Union, opening a painting studio in the Bowery above his friend and sculptor Bill Barrett. “I wanted to move on at a swifter pace and make myself heard as a painter,” Mieczkowski told an interviewer in 2012. “I had become impatient with the [Anonima] group’s process—too much talking and not enough painting.”
Through the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s Mieczkowski explored new ideas from physics, as well as biomedicine and biotechnology. Particularly relevant to Mieczkowski was the theory of the fractal, which referenced the observable patterns within the apparent irregularities of the natural world. As in Mieczkowski’s Fractal paintings and drawings, an important aspect to this concept is the repetition of identical and also similar elements at different scales. For an artist with such a deep interest in the machinations of perception, the visual application of such an elemental mathematical concept was a match made in heaven.
As Mieczkowski saw an opportunity to explore fresh directions in his art, his work reflected a growing interest in texture and imagery inspired by observation. Works 4
He continued to paint vibrant suggestions of depth and space, but with a freer sense of variation on a precise motif or pattern—as well as a more impressionist use of the color spectrum, as in his Rack series. It was from this series that he began to work more sculpturally, in painted, three-dimensional constructions like Collage I (1983) and Leith Walk Red (1984), and later, larger scale sculptures that also reference his Crane series: Frank Lloyd (1986) and Small North (1987).
of this recognition was that his art reached now into a painterly realm that was more irregular and expressive, memorable and visceral. Where many of his Op Art peers seemed to treat their scientific allusions as formal optical exercises, Mieczkowski’s lines, planes, angles, and references to biomedicine and physics were always means to an end: the creation of a work of art that would have meaning to the heart as well as the mind. “Mieczkowski tolerates errors – and often celebrates the way they introduce hiccups in his otherwise tight rhythms,” Stephen Litt, noted art critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote in 2007. “Evidence of the artist’s touch is apparent in the visible dabs of pigment that cover the surface of his paintings. From a distance, this tends to soften their geometry.”
SOUL “Painting does not stress predictability as does science,” Mieczkowski wrote in a 1965 paper accompanying an early Op Art exhibition in Zagreb. “Science strives to gives us the assurance of a constant world, where man is capable of generating the courage and arrogance necessary to deal with inertia in the present.” While his peers in the Anonima group were devoted to the removal of the artist’s ego, favoring optical exercises that were dependent on structural order, as well as a sense of piety that was reflected in their noncommercial stance, Mieczkowski always seemed interested in being a painter, and in reaching his viewer beyond their eyes.
CODA For Ed Mieczkowski, creativity was the cessation of conformity. Throughout his career he set his sights on making art that was equal parts from his mind and from his heart, but always free from convention and in concerted disregard for fame, fortune or fear. In so doing, his work inevitably touches the soul. As an instrument of art-making, the protractor was as effective in his hands as a brush. Rather than bucolic landscapes or comely models as subjects, Mieczkowski found inspiration and personal delight in geometry, mathematics, and science. That beautiful art could be the product of such iconoclasm and wide-ranging curiosity is the ultimate eulogy to this remarkable art provocateur and genius. He will be missed but his art will endure in tribute.
Mieczkowski recognized that no matter how closely his art adhered to precise, mathematically-planned systems, it remained susceptible to a variety of indefinable forces both within himself and from the world at large. He recognized that by embracing those forces, his work might engender an emotional response and allow him to broaden its reach. Therein lies the magic of his art, at a wrestled-over intersection between humankind, machine, and science: the wisdom that these combined forces would always inform his art-making. The effect
Anon, 1961, ink on paper, 20 x 21 in 6
Cornered II, 1963, acrylic on canvas over panel, 24 x 24 in 7
Study for Iso-Rounds and Bumpers, 1964, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 in 8
Stairs, 1967, acrylic on paper, 30 x 22 in 9
Block Knock, 1968, ink on paper, 19 x 18 in 10
Size Second Series #4, 1968, acrylic on board, 48 x 48 in 11
Feb 28, 1971, 1:30 pm, 1971, pastel on paper, 22 x 30 in 12
M_541, 1978, acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 in 13
Overlap 3, 1966, acrylic on paper, 23 x 23 in 14
Blue Gantry, 1986, acrylic & graphite on paper, 44.5 x 32 in 15
M_850, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 15 x 11 in 16
Color Set Rack, 1978, acrylic on paper, 23 x 29 in 17
Red Crane, 1982, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 66 in 18
Dark Crane, 1982, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 54 in 19
5 O'Clock, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 66 in 20
Blue Dock and Crane, 1987, acrylic on paper, 45 x 32 in 21
Fractal Genesis, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 96 in
Costa Mesa Trance, 2003, acrylic on paper, 40 x 28 in 23
Quantum Quiver 08/2003, 2003, graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper, 12 x 9 in 24
Quantum Zero Reverie, 2003, graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper, 48 x 36 in 25
Elysian Fields, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in 26
Untitled (Blue Bloc), c. 2007, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in 27
Fanfare, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 in
Collage 1, c. 1983, acrylic on mixed media assemblage, 24 x 36 in
Collage 4, 1983, acrylic on mixed media assemblage, 14 x 14 in 30
Leith Walk Red, 1984, acrylic on mixed media assemblage, 17 x 14 in 31
Amazonia (rondelle), painted metal, 18 x 16 in 32
5th Star, 1997, mixed media, 13 x 10 in 33
Rondelle Study, 1998, mixed media, 18 x 35 in 34
Frank Lloyd, 1986, acrylic on board, 32 x 15 x 9.5 in 35
Firewall, 1986, acrylic on wood, 36 x 19 x 5.5 in 36
Castor & Bollocks, 1975, painted wood, 29 x 15 in 37
Small North, 1987, painted wood, 32 x 24 x 6.5 in 38
Sienna,1988, painted wood, 35 x 14 x 7.8 in 39
City Core, 1989, acrylic on aluminum, 54 x 46 x 40 in 40
M_540, 1978, acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 in 41
M_546, 1978, acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 in
Square Rack Series #33, 1974, acrylic on paper, 23 x 18.25 in
Blue Ore, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 73 x 66 in 44
Furnace, 2006, acrylic, 36 x 36 in 45
Ed Mieczkowski (Born: 1929, Pittsburgh, PA | Died: 2017, Newport Beach, CA) EDUCATION 1959 MFA, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 1957 BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH 1953 Fellowship, Yale-Norfolk Summer Art School, Norfolk, CT SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2018 LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2015 LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2013 LewAllen Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ 2012 LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2009 LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2007 Tregoning Gallery, Cleveland, OH 2007 LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM 2006 LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM 1995 Scarab Gallery, Cleveland, OH 1990 Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH 1988 Brenda Kroos Gallery, Columbus, OH 1987 Great Northern Corporate Center, North Olmsted, OH 1985 Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH 1982 Kaber Gallery Ltd., New York, NY 1981 Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH 1978 Tanglewood Downtown, New York, NY 1977 Akron Art Institute, Akron, OH The New Gallery, Cleveland, OH Ohio Wesleyan University, Dayton, OH 1976 Ellen Meyers, Inc., New York, NY 1974 Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT The New Gallery, Cleveland, OH 1972 The New Gallery, Cleveland, OH 1965 Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2017 New Cell +1, Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, Cleve land, OH 2012 Cleveland Op Art Pioneers, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleve land, OH 2011 CLE OP, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Masters of Abstraction, Cleveland Institute of Art, Clevland, OH Boundary Formations & the Tease of the Familiar, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH 2010 Op Out of Ohio: ‘Anonima Group, Richard Anuszkiewicz and Julian Stanczak in the 1960s’, D. Wigmore Fine Art, New York 2007 Freedom to Experiment: American Abstraction 1945-1975, D. Wigmore Fine Art, New York, NY From Here to Infinity, 125th Anniversary Exhibition, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH Los Angeles Art Show (exhibited by LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM) at Barker Hangar, Santa Monica, CA Optic Nerve: New Paintings, Tregoning Co. Gallery, Cleveland,
2006 2001 1997 1995 1990 1984 1984 1983 1981 1980 1979 1978
Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH Los Angeles Art Show (exhibited by LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM) at Barker Hangar, Santa Monica, CA Optic Nerve: New Paintings, Tregoning Co. Gallery, Cleveland Four Artists: Four Directions, Amarillo Museum of Art, Amarillo, TX Harmonic Forms on the Edge: Geometric Abstraction in Cleveland, Cleveland Artists Foundation, Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland, OH William Busta Gallery, Cleveland, OH The Spirit of Cleveland, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH; traveled to Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH; Artspace, Limo,OH; Riffe Gallery, Columbus, OH; Back Center for the Cultural Arts, Cleve land, OH Eight Sculptors, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland Ohio Sculptors, Mansfield Art Center, Mansfield, OH American Purism Since 1945, Marylyn Pearl Gallery, New York, NY Six Perspectives, Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH Kaber Gallery Ltd., New York, NY The New Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH Visual Logic II, Parsons School of Design, New York, NY Visual Logic 1 $ 2, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH; traveled to New Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH; Parsons School of Design, New York, NY; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; Columbus College, Chicago, IL Construction & Color, Myers Fine Arts Gallery, SUNY, Plattsburgh, NY
SELECTED AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS: 2013 Artist archives, gifted in perpetuity to Smithsonian Institution 2009 Alumni Achievement Award, Carnegie Mellon University 1977 Ohio Arts Award 1966 Cleveland Arts Award 1965 National Endowment for the Arts Award Teaching: 1998 1960-1998 1960-1998 1960-1998
Guest Lecturer, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA Cleveland Institute of Art, Drawing/Painting/Print Making Carnegie Mellon University, Lithograph and Print Making Cooper Union College, Painting
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, Tel Aviv, Israel Museum of Contemporary Art, Lodz, Poland The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT Drew University, Madison, NJ
Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | email@example.com ÂŠ 2018 LewAllen Contemporary LLC Artwork ÂŠ Estate of Ed Mieczkowski