An Interview with Artist Ed Mieczkowski (1929-2017)

November, 2012

JK: After the disbanding of Anonima, we see that the grid continued to be an important organizing scheme for you.

EM: I find the grid to be a very useful format, and over the years I’ve used it in many different ways. At this point I explored the use of gradients in a grid format in works I called my Rack series.

In this work from 1969, there are four separate large paintings joined by a framework, which I referred to as a “rack.” The light channels are actually wood.

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, wood framework, 147 x 216 cm (58 x 85 in), 1969

In Horizontal Rack from 1971, 2 large paintings made at slightly different times are similarly joined together by a framework or rack. As we have seen before, I would sometimes outline areas—here some of the rectangular bars—with a contrasting color.

Horizontal Rack
Horiontal Rack (diptych), acrylic on paper, wood framework,
187 x 198 cm (73.5 x 78 in), 1971

JK: As you continued these gridded works, the arrangements of colors, gradients, and shapes grew more complex and varied.

Color Rack SetFlying Rack
Color Rack Set, acrylic on paper,
58 x 74 cm (23 x 29 in), 1978
Flying Rack, acrylic on paper,
56 x 76 cm (22 x 30 in), 1978

And you dispensed with the actual rack structures.

June 27, 1971, acrylic on paper,
60 x 75 cm (23.5 x 29.5 in), 1971
MC5, acrylic on paper, 60 x 75 cm (23.5 x 29.5 in), 1972

You explored a wide variety of color ranges and combinatorial strategies in these works.

 Enigma Variations 1             Enigma Variations 6
Enigma Variations 1, acrylic on canvas,
193 x 211 cm (76 x 83 in), 1971
Enigma Variations 6, acrylic on board,
48 x 60 cm (122 x 152 in), ca 1972

EM: I have always been inclined to explore the entire color spectrum freely and to vary the use of a particular structure or motif.

 Color Wall         November Wall
Color Wall, acrylic on paper,
56 x 72 cm (22 x 30 in), 1972
November Wall, acrylic on paper,
56 x 72 cm (22 x 30 in), 1972

I was also doing works on paper where structure and depth are implied in the drawing.

Square Rack #12
Square Rack #12, acrylic and watercolor on paper,
51 x 76 cm (20 x 30 in), 1973

For example, in Square Rack #21, the squares appear to be attached to a horizontal bar.

Square Rack #21
Square Rack #21, acrylic and watercolor on paper,
56 x 76 cm (22 x 30 in), 1974

I began to feel that the paintings I was doing at this time could be built…

XVI, acrylic and watercolor on paper,
56 x 91 cm (22 x 36 in), 1974
XII, acrylic and watercolor on paper,
66 x 91 cm (26 x 36 in), 1974
Lyo Ochre
Lyo Ochre, acrylic and watercolor on paper, 65 x 97 cm (25.5 x 38 in), 1976

… so I began to make reliefs primarily with wood or masonite.

Half Yellow, acrylic, graphite and watercolor on masonite,
60 x 62 cm (23.5 x 24.5 in), 1976
Papundra, pencil, acrylic and paper on wood and masonite,
112 x 135 cm (44 x 53 in in), 1977

JK: Often you included your rack-like structures, which were typically oriented diagonally.

Graphkhan, mixed media on wood, 135 x 127 cm (53 x 50 in), 1978

In 1978 you were commissioned to do a large public work in Cleveland.

EM: The piece is called Sommer’s Sun, a very large tondo some 20 feet in diameter composed of four canvases. It was installed in the Brett Memorial Hall in the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The painting is quite brightly colored and was based on the overlapping forms I was engaged with at the time.

 Installing Sommer's SunSommer's Sun
Installing Sommer’s Sun Sommer’s Sun, acrylic on canvas in 4 parts, ~ 6 m in diameter
(~20 feet in diameter), 1979
(Commission for Cleveland Public Library,Brett Memorial Hall,
Cleveland, OH)

I did this piece in response to a mural done in 1933 by William Sommer, a very accomplished Ohio artist. His work is called The City in 1833. It depicts Cleveland’s downtown Public Square from a century earlier. In my painting, I focused on the rays of the sun in Sommer’s work.

The City in 1833Sommer's Sun
The City in 1833, Cleveland Public Library,
Brett Memorial Hall, 1934
Sommer’s Sun, Cleveland Public Library,
Brett Memorial Hall, 1979

JK: Overlap continues to be important in both your constructions and works on paper from this period.

EM: I was using overlapping bars placed at various angles to activate these works. I built the large construction, Cat’s Cradle, from masonite and used tape to create the lines. I found the tape a very quick and convenient way to jot down my thoughts.

artist with Cat's Cradle
The artist with Cat’s Cradle, tape and masonite,
244 x 226 cm (96 x 89 in), 1978
(Photo courtesy the Cleveland Public Library)

JK: Some of the constructions in this group were black and white and some had intense colors—as we have seen in previous series.

Smelters Eve
Smelters Eve, acrylic on wood and masonite,
236 x 208 cm (93 x 82 in), 1979

EM: Yes. I also explored these overlapping structures in works on paper.

Mother Goose's Politics
Mother Goose’s Politics, acrylic on paper, 91 x 117 cm (36 x 46 in), 1979
Visual Logic
Visual Logic, acrylic on paper, 91 x 117 cm (36 x 46 in), 1979

JK: You continued making constructions whose scales varied dramatically.

Mr. 8 x 8, acrylic on illustration board,
47 x 43 cm (18.5 x 17 in), 1980

Some of these constructions took the form of very large commissioned works.

Jubilant City, acrylic and wood on masonite, 244 x 610 cm (96 x 240 in), 1982
(The John and Mildred Putnam Sculpture Collection of Case Western Reserve
University and University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio)

EM: Jubilant City was a large construction I made for the Health Science Library at Case Western Reserve University in 1982. I had always been intrigued by parallax—where objects appear to change position with the movement of the viewer—and this occurs especially in large works like this. The shapes appear to change relations to one another as viewers move up and down a nearby stairway.

A lot of the individual units are about three inches above the surface of the work, so when you walk by them, your view of them changes in relation to what appears behind them.

 Jubilant City detail

JK: We continue to see many variations in scale in these dynamic, brightly colored constructions.

Merwin #5Before Corinth
Merwin #5, acrylic on board, 36 x 36 cm (14 x 14 in), 1984Before Corinth, acrylic on board,
60 x 60 x 7.5 cm (23.5 x 23.5 x 3 in), 1983
Arroyo Dolores
Arroyo Dolores, acrylic on wood and masonite, 244 x 427 cm (96 x 168 in), 1984
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