Richard Anuszkiewicz


If you’ve walked through Terminal B at the Orlando Airport in Florida, you’ve seen Richard Anuszkiewicz’s mural, Day Pyramid, in the West Hall.


Anuszkiewicz is an American Master whose work is part of the permanent collections of museums around the world, including MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Hokkaido Museum of Moderm Art, Sapporo in Japan. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1930, Anuszkiewicz’s Polish immigrant father worked in a paper mill and brought home scraps of paper for his son to use for his drawings.

After being sent to Catholic School for his early education, Anuszkiewicz transferred to Erie Technical High School, where his creativity was encouraged.


In 1947, his senior year of high school, Anuszkiewicz continued to study color, working with three or four colors to get a broad palette. His work won him a National Scholastic Art Award and a scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Art, from which he graduated with a B.A. in 1953.


As it turned out, 1953 marked a turning point for Anuszkiewicz. He won a Pulitzer traveling scholarship that year. Instead of using it to study in Europe, Anuszkiewicz chose to attend Yale to study with Josef Albers, whose work with color interaction and geometric design had a profound influence on him.


Anuszkiewicz titled his Masters Thesis, “A Study in the Creation of Space with Line Drawing.” He said that Albers, “shook up his whole way of thinking.” After Yale, Anuszkiewicz went back to Ohio and got a degree in education. It was there, he says, that he really began to start using color and applying what he had learned from Albers.


In the spring of 1957, Anuszkiewicz took the paintings he had done while in Ohio and showed them in several galleries in New York. He was given his first solo show at The Contemporaries Gallery in 1960. The paintings hung in the gallery for two weeks, without a single sale. On the last Saturday before the show was scheduled to be closed, Alfred F. Barr, the first director of MoMA, walked in and bought Fluorescent Complement for the museum.


Barr’s purchase jump started Anuszkiewicz’s career. Other paintings in the gallery were bought by collectors, including New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. In 1964, Anuszkiewicz had made such an strong impact on the art world, that his work was featured on the cover of the international edition of LIFE magazine, where he was called, “The New Wizard of Op.”


The artists of the 1960s were the first to use the intense, acrylic paints manufactured for artists. Unlike oil, acrylic paint gave artists like Anuszkiewicz the ability to get sharp, fine lines. In 1965, MoMa put together a major exhibit of international op artists, called, The Responsive Eye, that further cemented Anuszkiewicz’s career.


Alfred F. Barr commissioned Anuszkiewicz to create Christmas cards for MoMA. Anuszkiewicz continued to silkscreen cards every year, some of which we have to offer in our gallery.


In the 1970s, Anuszkiewicz began to take a more mathematical approach to his work – squares and rectangles that played with the eye-mind connection. He was approached by the Public Art Fund of New York to created a mural on the side of the YMCA building in midtown Manhattan. After a trip to Egypt in the ‘80s, Anuszkiewicz did a series of “Temple” works that began his exploration into relief and sculpture.


 “My approach to painting,” he said, “is a kind of problem-solving one. I’ve aways set out to experiment with some idea – some visual idea – to solve for myself.”


Richard Anuskiewicz died on May 19, 2020.


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