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Richard Joseph Anuszkiewicz (American, 1930-2020)
Also known as: Anuskiewicz, Richard; Anuszkiewicz, RichardBiography:
Richard Joseph Anuszkiewicz (May 23, 1930) is an American painter, a founder of the Op Art movement of the sixties, and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. His paintings, full of intense colors and repeated geometric shapes, have become renowned for their emotional evocativeness, prompting the New York Times to say, “(Anuszkiewicz) has changed the way we think about and respond emotionally to color, and has even affected our spiritual response to it.”
Anuszkiewicz was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1930. He received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art, then attended Yale University for his MFA, training under renowned color theorist, Josef Albers. It was there Anuszkiewicz gave up on realism to concentrate on form and color. Albers showed him the work of the Bauhaus movement, and the color theory of Paul Klee -- these influences would begin to manifest in Anuszkiewicz’s work subtly at first.
It was also during this time that Anuszkiewicz became enamored with the psychology of perception, work that would manifest as Anuszkiewicz developed his trademark Op Art style -- which refers to the optical illusion of movement. He moved back to Ohio and began experimenting further with form, but it wasn’t until his return to New York in 1957 that Anuszkiewicz would truly come into his own. Richard Anuszkiewicz’s Concentric ii (1958) marked the start of a series of artistic and critical successes that culminated in an Anuszkiewicz showing at The Contemporary Gallery in 1959. His work would sell out.
Fluorescent Complement (1960) shows Anuszkiewicz already at the height of his powers. A grouping of green dots over varying shades of blue and green, it established Anuszkiewicz’s ability to portray movement and emotion -- even in abstraction. By his own volition, this was art that anyone could grasp, but had depth beyond that initial recognition.
“Op art is direct and requires little previous knowledge of art,” Anuszkiewicz says. “Children delight in it. Other viewers are aware of formal structure, relationships, and complexities but are just as delighted. This art appeals on as many levels as there are levels of awareness and experience."
The second half of the sixties saw Anuszkiewicz creating some of his most important work. Sol I (1965-present) and Sol II (1965) were extremely successful, the former of which became a series that he continues today. Sidney Janis would include Anuszkiewicz in his iconic “Pop and Op” exhibition in the late sixties alongside other luminaries like Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.
Anuszkiewicz continues his artistic evolution today. From the Translumina series of the 80s to his tribute to Mondrian, Anuszkiewicz has always pushed the boundaries of what Op art can elicit from the viewer. This is what makes an Anuszkiewicz painting different, and what makes it timeless.
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