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Artist Profile: Richard Anuszkiewicz
Richard Anuszkiewicz, Trans Orange (1975). Available at Barnebys.

by Robyn Ashley

LONDON.- The concept of ‘Op art’ - or optical art - was cemented in the mid 1960s in response to the use of optical illusions by abstract artists of the time. One of the leaders of this movement was American innovator, Richard Anuszkiewicz.

Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Anuszkiewicz moved to Ohio as a teenager to begin his training at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Though born into poverty, the artist has spoken of the immense support of his family in his choice to pursue a career in art - an unconventional move for a young man of the 1940s living in a steel-manufacturing state. Throughout his five years at the institute, Anuszkiewicz was awarded various scholarships and awards for his achievements, with his talents being recognised early on.

Having completed his studies in Cleveland, Anuszkiewicz moved to the Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where he was a student of Josef Albers - an abstract artist renowned for his geometric designs. Under Albers’ guidance, the young artist abandoned his final roots in realism and fully immersed himself in the world of abstraction. Anuszkiewicz’ shift in style during his time at Yale can be seen in the comparison of his work Self-Portrait (1954) with the later Concentric II (1958).

After training to become a teacher and a stint as a decorator, Anuszkiewicz moved to New York, hoping to become part of the revolutionary art scene taking over the city. In spite of the reputation he gained at Cleveland and Yale, Anuszkiewicz’ work was initially rejected by many galleries, with his style being deemed too harsh. Finally, the pioneering artist received the recognition he deserved in 1960, with his first solo exhibition attracting interest from the MoMA and private collectors.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, Anuszkiewicz’ art featured in respected galleries and museums in New York alongside the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. With the increasing hype around the Pennsylvanian-native came the exaggeration of the illusionary effects in his work; Anuszkiewicz moved away from flat, bold colours and began to play with different in-tense colours in geometric designs, producing dizzying optical effects on the viewer - as demonstrated in his piece Sun Keyed (1972).

From the 80s up to today, Anuszkiewicz has explored working with more complex materials, such as wood, aluminium, steel and bronze, whilst still using traditional canvas at other times.

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Artist Profile: Richard Anuszkiewicz

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