When Anuszkiewicz's Centered Squares were first shown in 1979, veteran critic John Gruen used his review in ARTnews to place the new works in context: 'Of the American artists who rose to prominence during the Op art movement of the early 1960s, Anuszkiewicz is perhaps the only one to have held fast to his vision,' adding, 'In England, Bridget Riley has also done so.'3 Still ahead were the Temples and Translumina — two major series of the artist's maturity, in which the color auras evoke a shimmering spirituality.
Anuszkiewicz belongs to the small number of great artists who construct their life's work with all the hallmarks of a series: lucidity, progress, and, above all, depth. Like his mentor Josef Albers, like Piet Mondrian — like Giorgio Morandi, just to name a representational painter — Anuszkiewicz focuses his vision on the limitless possibilities of a single theme. In his case, the theme is not a single motif, but an insistence on color.
There was a point in my work in '65 when people said the difference between Anuszkiewicz's work and Albers' work is that the image is the same in Albers' work and the color changes, and in Anuszkiewicz's work the colors remain the same and the images change.'4
The comparison was apt enough, at least in 1965, shortly after which Anuszkiewicz proceeded to experiment with fixed compositions, especially in the two series, Portals and Centered Squares.
For modern painters, color was the last frontier. in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, J.M.W. Turner pushed the limits on the expressive force of isolated color. In 1839, a French chemist named Michel Eugene Chevreul published his treatise on the vibrant interaction of the complementary pairs, red-green, orange-blue and yellow-violet. Twenty-five years later, the Impressionists were profoundly influenced by Chevreul. Monet rejoiced in the complementaries' tendency to reinforce each other, painting red poppies in green fields. it was in this vein that van Gogh, after painting the night cafe in Aries, explained to his brother Theo, "I tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by contrasts of red and green."
Georges Seurat evolved a system. An honorary founding father of Op art, Seurat painted dots in colors he knew would dissolve, or 'optically mix' in the eyes of the beholder. The Fauves, and especially Matisse, took the next step, severing color's dependence upon naturalness. After World War II, the Abstract Expressionists liberated color once and for all from representation. Mark Rothko aspired to paint tragedy in brooding tones of purple. Coming out of the show of Turner's late landscapes at the Museum of Modern Art, Rothko quipped, "He learned a lot from me."
Anuszkiewicz was a moving force behind the changing of the guard that took place in American painting at the close of the 1950s. After ten intensive years of achievement, the works of Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning spoke for themselves, and mainly, it seemed to the next generation — about themselves. Abstract Expressionism was the most personal and emotional of styles; its 'raw, rash and rapid' brushwork filled the canvas like a huge signature.5 An art movement has ended, as one critic put it, when it no longer attracts the best young talent."6 The painters who, like Anuszkiewicz, came of age around 1960 — Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, to name a few — were strongly contrasting personalities united in their determination to go in an opposite direction. Theirs was the first generation of artists to respond to the brave new world of the mass media, which dawned for most Americans as they watched the Rome Olympics live on television interrupted by commercials. it wasn't a personal way of seeing, but it was going to be pervasive. Some of these artists spoofed the new consumer culture, others ignored it. All of them responded to the arresting colors and hard edges of its graphic design. instead of looking inward, this generation elected to address themselves to a universal audience: the unbinking global eye.
Asked for a statement for the Americans 1963 exhibition at MOMA, Anuszkiewicz replied,