WOJCIECH FANGOR (1922-2015)
WOJCIECH FANGOR (1922-2015)
WOJCIECH FANGOR (1922-2015)
WOJCIECH FANGOR (1922-2015)
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WOJCIECH FANGOR (1922-2015)

E43

Details
WOJCIECH FANGOR (1922-2015)
E43
signed, titled and dated ‘FANGOR E43 1965’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
27 7⁄8 x 27 7⁄8in. (70.9 x 70.9cm.)
Painted in 1965
Provenance
Grabowski Gallery, London.
Private Collection.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1980s.
Further details
This work will be included in the Wojciech Fangor Catalogue Raisonné published on the www.fangorfoundation.org website

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Lot Essay

In mesmeric concentric rings of gradated yellow, green, and blue, Warsaw-born Wojciech Fangor’s E43 reverberates, hums, and phosphoresces before the eye. Painted in 1965, a year of ground-breaking international success for the artist, the large, square canvas extends just under a metre in width, suspending the viewer in a state of trance-like contemplation. The present painting was acquired from Mateusz Grabowski at his trailblazing Grabowski Gallery, London, famous for hosting some of the earliest exhibitions of Pop and Op art in the 1960s and 1970s. E43 is an outstanding example of Fangor’s renowned ‘edgeless paintings’. It was this series of glowing orbs, begun in 1958, that launched the artist to international recognition and acclaim. Rendered in fine, thinly applied layers of hyper-saturated oil pigment, the canvases are suffused with hues from a wide spectrum of colour. Generating vivid perceptual and optical experiences that verge on the psychedelic, here form is radically dematerialised, and seems to sublimate into luminous blue vapour before our very eyes.

Travelling extensively between Europe and the United States during this decade, and exhibiting his new-found idiom of abstraction across landmark institutional shows, this work coincides with the catapulting of Fangor’s career. By 1965, his work had been exhibited in two group shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 1970 he became the first—and remains to this day the only—Polish artist to have a solo show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. It was the seminal group show The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, curated by William C. Seitz, that inserted him among preeminent Op artists. Veering from the painterly, material emphasis of Abstract Expressionism, with its emphatic gesturalism, free-form and viscous impasto, Seitz’s show celebrated a newly developing ‘perceptual abstraction’ (W. C. Seitz, The Responsive Eye, exh. cat. The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1965, p. 7). Characterised by an interest in optics, illusion, distortion, flatness, retinal imprints and after-images, Fangor’s paintings were among works able to ‘exert a control over perception capable of arousing delight, anxiety and even vertigo’ (W. C. Seitz, quoted in Press Release, The Responsive Eye, 1964, p. 1). Juxtaposing complementary hues to intensify form, Fangor’s particular engagement with colour both recalls the work, and caught the attention of Josef Albers, who was writing his influential Interaction of Color at the time. The artists’ synergetic practices explored entirely new territory of the physio-psychological effects of colour.

E43 demonstrates the artist’s interest in creating not simply an art object, but an activated environment in which the spectator is engaged as a participator and co-creator. With the charge of a magnetic field, the canvas embodies the principal tenet of Fangor’s practice, that paintings should ‘radiate a force onto literal space which defines a zone of physical activity’ (W. Fangor, quoted in P. P. Tomaszewski, Wojciech Fangor: The Early 1960s, exh. cat. Heather James Fine Art, New York 2018, p. 9). His first solo exhibition, A Study of Space at the New Culture Salon in Warsaw, 1958, in collaboration with Polish architect Stanisław Zamecznik was pioneering for its enquiry into the physical experience of the artwork, and crucially of the pregnant space around it. Moreover, it anticipated the later phenomenological concerns of American Minimalists—the likes of Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Carl Andre—as seen by the end of the decade.

The painting denotes the rich relationship between science, technology, and art that underpins Fangor’s oeuvre. Its concentric rings of pulsating yellow, green and blue conjure the mysterious visual phenomena of the universe: those of planets, orbits, solar eclipses and fantastic coronas. The unique fusion of colour in E43 dances and refracts like the aurora borealis, mimicking its display of fluorescing particles. Reflecting on these themes, Fangor describes his longstanding interest in astronomy and optical instruments, ‘when I was 14 years old I constructed my first telescope and was very impressed with the image of the object in and out of focus and the spectacular chromatic alteration’ (W. Fangor, quoted in Wojciech Fangor / Six Paintings from the Sixties, exh. cat. The Mayor Gallery, London 2015, p. 7). Similarly, Fangor’s painting eludes the eye’s focus. With its cosmic surface which seems to at once absorb and emit, contract and expand, E43 testifies to Fangor’s unrelenting fascination for optics and the mechanics of vision.

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