Celebrated American painter, printmaker, and sculptor Richard Anuszkiewicz created mesmerizing, vibrant Op art works that alter perception and display a deep and complex understanding of the visual and psychological resonances of color.
Things to Know
About Richard Anuszkiewicz
Richard Anuszkiewicz won the prestegious Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship in 1953, and instead of traveling abroad opted to study with Josef Albers at Yale where he got his Masters in Fine Arts.
His roommate when attending Yale was fellow artist, Julian Stanczak.
In 1959, Alfred H. Barr Jr., director of The Museum of Modern Art, New York purchased two painting by Anuszkiwicz launching the artist's career.
Considered one of the founders of the Op Art movement, he and Briget Riley were named the "new wizards of op" by Life magazine in 1964.
He created art throughout his lifetime and for his achievements received the Lee Krasner Award in 2000.
Anuszkiewicz's work was included in the seminal exhibition, The Responsive Eye at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1965.
"My work is of an experimental nature and has centered on an investigation into the effects of complementary colors of full intensity when juxtaposed and the optical changes that occur as a result, and a study of the dynamic effect of the whole under changing conditions of light, and the effect of light on color."
Excerpted from Richard Anuszkiewicz's artist statement for the exhibition Americans 1963 at The Museum of Modern Art.
Richard Anuszkiewicz 1930–2020
Richard Anuszkiewicz was born of humble beginnings in Erie, PA to working class immigrant parents. While attending a local Catholic school, the nuns noticed and encouraged his surprisingly advanced talent for drawing. At the age of 17 he won a National Scholastic Art award and then a full scholarship to the Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio where he would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1953. That same year he won a prestigious Pulitzer travel fellowship. Rather than go to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, he opted to study under Josef Albers at Yale University for his master’s degree.
Albers, a German-born artist and educator, was one of the most influential visual arts teachers of the 20th century and his theory of color and iconic color square paintings had an enormous impact on Anuszkiewicz’s artistic development. After graduating from Yale, Anuszkiewicz returned to Ohio and studied at Kent State University where he earned a teaching degree. It was during this time that he devoted himself more seriously to painting and delved deeper into color theory and optical perception. At first, his paintings found tepid reception, with dealers complaining that his works were nice to look at but difficult on the eyes. This all changed after his solo exhibition at Contemporaries gallery in New York in 1960.
Alfred Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, visited the show and purchased one of the artist’s works, showing it at the MoMA later that year alongside other acquisitions. By the following year, Anuszkiewicz had a waiting list for his paintings. His popularity reached its peak in 1965 when his work was featured in MoMA’s seminal The Responsive Eye exhibition focused entirely on Op Art. Time magazine ran a full profile of him and he was anointed by Life magazine as the “new wizard of op”. Anuszkiewicz created visually challenging paintings; unlike his mentor’s work, in which colors harmonize, Anuszkiewicz’s colors purposefully clash with each other and leave an afterimage on the viewer’s retina. During his time at Yale he had become fascinated with perceptual psychology, a subfield of psychology concerned with the conscious and unconscious innate aspects of perception, and the complementary colors and repetitive geometry of his paintings became his outlet to experiment with the concept.
Over the following decades, his work became more mathematical and then architectural; he experimented with gluing thin strips of wood to his canvases, utilized laser-cut aluminum, and even created a series in 2000 made of painted steel. Anuskiewicz continued to paint into the last years of his life, and his work is still widely exhibited and can be found in many private and public collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Japan.
Auction Results Richard Anuszkiewicz
I’m interested in making something romantic out of a very, very mechanistic geometry. Geometry and color represent to me an idealized, classical place that’s very clear and very pure.