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 Edwin Mieczkowski  (1929 - )

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Lived/Active: Ohio/California      Known for: geometric abstract painting, op art

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Ad Code: 3
Edwin Mieczkowski
from Auction House Records.
"'Enigma Variations #6'"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Edwin Mieczkowski, born in Pittsburgh, was a leader of geometric and perceptual abstraction during the latter part of the 20th century.  Mieczkowski’s work first came to prominence  in "The Responsive Eye" exhibition, the nation’s first major exhibition of perceptual art, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965.

Mieczkowski was also featured in the 1964 article in Time magazine that first used the term “Op Art” to describe paintings that manipulated visual cues in order to reorder and excite viewers’ perceptual responses.

With a complex aesthetic that over time has transcended mere tricks of optical art, Mieczkowski has spent nearly four decades producing geometrically paintings, drawings and sculptures, a genre of modern art that is known broadly as perceptual abstraction.

His output of static and dynamic forms create a body of work, still largely intact, that uses visually disorienting, meticulously arranged lines, dazzling kaleidoscopic colors, and alluring juxtapositions of hue and tone, to playfully and seductively present new challenges for the viewer’s eyes. The desired result is an optical effect of perpetual motion, harmonics and rhythm. . . .

Along with Frank Hewitt and Ernst Benkert, Mieczkowski was a co-founder in 1959 of the Anonima* group that worked together in Cleveland and New York and declared itself free from the pressures of the art market and the pursuit of personal fame. Members of Anonima often left their works unsigned and vowed to shun the usual art market venues such as commercial galleries, biennials and competitions. Instead, they engaged in a rigorous, self-imposed program of painting exercises to explore the effects of geometry and color on visual perception.

Although Mieczkowski’s work hung side-by-side in the MOMA "Responsive Eye" exhibition with such colleagues as Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Carlos Cruz-Diaz, Ad Reinhardt and Bridget Riley, all of whom went on to considerable fame and fortune, Mieczkowski chose to eschew commercial exhibition and career promotion. Instead, he spent 39 years teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art and quietly executing a number of public art commissions while independently pursuing his own intuitive explorations in geometric abstraction.

Mieczkowski pursued virtually no commercial sales of his work. Consequently, the body of work he left behind consists of hundreds of paintings, drawings and sculptures only recently viewed by the public.

Throughout his entire career, which he has continued from his studio in California, Mieczkowski has done artwork in evolving styles and mediums, which actively embrace of the logic and rationality of science and technology central to the era of which he was a part. Some of his most lyrical abstractions are inspired by cutting-edge science and, in particular, biomedicine, biotechnology and genetic research. During the more expressly geometric phases of his career, he was described as having “embraced the ruler and the compass as proper and delicate tools to be employed in the name of art.” . . . A testament to the notion that vision does not take place automatically as though the revealing of a scene through a window but must be inferred from visual cues, Mieczkowski’s oeuvre can be thought of as a precursor of aspects of post-modernism.

In 2004, Mieczkowski’s entire life’s oeuvre came close to being destroyed as he lay in a hospital bed recovering from heart surgery. Mieczkowski had been in the process of planning his relocation from Cleveland to Huntington Beach, California, when he was rushed to Houston for surgery. He had already sold his studio building but had not yet removed his art; and as he lay in Houston recovering from his second aortic aneurysm, the new owners of the building scheduled it for demolition despite its being filled with Mieczkowski’s life work. Friends and art patrons literally rescued the art works, removing them from the building the night before it was to be demolished.

A short while later, Ken Marvel, one of LewAllen Contemporary’s owners, spotted a Mieczkowski construction hanging in the home of sculptor Bill Barrett, who had been a friend and colleague of Mieczkowski’s in New York and Cleveland many years before. Struck by the beauty and importance of the work, Marvel then negotiated for the gallery to become Mieczkowski’s exclusive representative and unearthed the hundreds of extraordinary works that comprise this historically significant collection.

Mieczkowski received his BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1957 and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon in 1959.

Museums with Mieczkowski’s work in their collections include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lodz, Poland; the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art in Israel; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Akron Art Museum; and the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. His most prominent public art commissions are in the Cleveland Public Library and the Health Sciences Library of Case Western Reserve University.

Lew Allen Contemporary,

Biography from LewAllen Galleries:
A leader in the hard-edged, geometric abstraction movement that arose in the U.S. and Europe in the late 1950s, Edwin Mieczkowski is regarded as one of the earliest proponents of Optical Art, a style that rivaled Abstract Expressionism for dominance in the mid-1960s.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1929, he received his BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1957 and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon in 1959. He taught at the Cleveland Institute of Art for 39 years, even while maintaining a home and studio for a number of years in New York City.

Together with Frank Hewitt and Ernst Benkert, he formed an artist group called Anonima. Sharing studio space in New York and other locations, they followed a rigorous, self-imposed program of painting exercises to explore the effects of color, brightness and form on visual perception, prefiguring and becoming part of the Op Art movement.

Mieczkowski’s painting, Adele’s Class Ring, appeared in the 1964 Time magazine article that first introduced the term Op Art to the public. With his Anonima colleagues, he was also included in "The Responsive Eye" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965—the seminal exhibition of Optical Art—alongside work by such artists as Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, Julian Stanzcak, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Carlos Cruz-Diaz, Ad Reinhardt, Jesús Rafael Soto and Bridget Riley.

Mieczkowski’s work was a part of "Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s", the major exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art in 2007 that presented a major reconsideration of Op Art.

Mieczkowski spent several decades of his professional artistic career quietly pursuing his intuitive explorations in geometric and perceptual abstraction while teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He executed a number of public art commissions in this period, the most prominent being his 1979 tondo titled Sommer’s Sun, which is in the Cleveland Public Library’s Brett Hall.

His work has been collected by museums in Israel, Denmark and Poland as well as the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum, the New Jersey State Museum and the Robert Hull Fleming Museum in Vermont.

Mieczkowski's most recent work uses the straight lines, curves and angles of geometric abstraction to create dazzling representations of concepts from the new sciences, especially bio-medicine and bio-technology.

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