Plavcan’s Mature Style

Erie painter Joseph Plavcan (1908—1981) is remembered as an influential and well-respected art teacher whose former students can be found in every area of art endeavor, locally and across the country.

Probably the best-known Plavcan student is Op Artist Richard Anuszkiewicz, who acknowledges that his own fascination with color, above all other visual elements, has something to do with Plavcan’s equally intense but very different involvement with that same element. Likewise, Plavcan was inspired by Anuszkiewicz’s work in the 1960s, forsaking oils in favor of the new acrylic paints and turning from the more traditional realism of his earlier work to a new and unique style characterized by bold, pure colors.

Plavcan’s new style, which he explored for the rest of his life, was initially an abrupt break from his previous work. Bold, flat areas of unmodulated color dominate, but their subtly nuanced shades enliven what at first appears to be a simple, paint-by-numbers approach.

The one visual element which Plavcan found most difficult to reduce to flat planes was the tree, one of his favorite subjects. It is in his treatment of trees that we can most easily witness the slow progression of his late style. At first, he flattened the foliage into large, hard edged geometric forms, creating wonderful little abstractions within the larger composition. Gradually the geometries softened, the forms lost their hard edges and became expressionistic, eventually bringing him back around to something approaching a brighter-colored version of his style of twenty years earlier.

On the third floor of the Annex building.