Wojciech Fangor: The Early 1960s – San Francisco Exhibition

Wojciech Fangor is a Polish painter who became one of the nation’s more preeminent artists by experimenting with abstraction in the years following the end of World War II. Born in 1922, Fangor studied and taught art during the early years of his career, producing paintings inspired by various styles of the European avant garde before shifting his artistic output to poster design and eventually works that relate to both Optical Art and Color Field painting.

Fangor’s first exhibitions in the United States took place in the 1960s, where he was included in two group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, including 15 Polish Painters (1961) and The Responsive Eye (1965), the latter of which explored contemporary developments in optical art. Fangor received a major solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 1970, returning to Poland in 1999 where he continued to work until his death in November 2015.

The paintings in this exhibition situate viewers within a realm of uncertainty, oscillating in a single painting between light and darkness, color and colorlessness, form and formlessness. The viewer’s field of vision is not clearly defined, and the absence of clearly defined contours lead our eyes sensuously across the surface of the canvas. Examined in unison, clusters of paintings exploring a single theme begin to stand out – functioning, together, as visual experiments which test the limits of human perception. Though we may naturally seek out some sense of an underlying geometry within each work, ultimately, Fangor creates each painting in the same manner that we ought to view them; that is, intuitively, and without assumption.