The colorful thing about Cezanne's work was the manipulation of the warm and cool colors. He was putting a warm shade next to a cool shade which sort of charges those colors up... Then I could also understand Albers' interaction, where a color changes another color.16
He did not abandon landscapes and interiors, at least not yet. "I was very sure of myself in Cleveland, and I was winning prizes in the local May show.... To learn about color behavior and to see that you can do things with this was a revelation... it took a little while before in some way I started to use it. I think maybe I was fighting him [Albers] too because the tendency is to fight the strong personality to preserve yourself."17
Albers and the European artists he taught as examples to his students gradually induced the young man to abandon realism. His Self-Portrait of 1954, his only extant painting from that year, amounts to a declaration of independence from figuration — or a confession perhaps of anxiety. Erasing his own features, he transforms himself into a flat abstract figure against a vibrant ground. A year later, Klee's playful compromises between fantasy and fact inspired Mask (1955), the most sophisticated picture he had painted to that date.
Anuszkiewicz's studies at Yale coincided with a time of extraordinary interest in the visual psychology of art. A new book by Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (1954), cited Albers thrice and was written as if intended for painters: "The pure hues can never serve as transitions. They are the poles. They stand isolated, or appear at the beginning or end of a sequence of color values... Cezanne often indicates the highest point of a convexity — a cheek or an apple — by a pure red spot. Or he may put a pure blue in the depth of a hollow — for example, the corner of an eye."18 Anuszkiewicz remembers poring through such observations which were of a kind rarely heard in art or art history classes. Two other landmarks in this field were published in the mid-fifties: Victor Vasarely's Yellow Manifesto (in French, 1955), and Ernst H. Gombrich's Mellon Lectures, Art and Illusion; A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (1956).
For his second year at Yale, Anuszkiewicz was joined by other artists from Cleveland. and especially his friend Julian Stanczak. The two painters roomed together and often went in Anuszkiewicz's car to New York to see the latest shows."19 Their friendship continues today. In 1955, Anuszkiewicz earned his M.F.A. with a master's thesis on "A Study in the Creation of Space with Line Drawing". "It was on how to create space with line drawing, how line creates space. I did it historically, showing how the spatial idea differed in different periods.
Then I talked about contemporary drawing and how the contemporary artist just with pure line creates space, what happens just with the line and different ways of creating space. This study was very beneficial to my own work."20
But he wasn't ready to go to New York. Albers "shook up my whole way of thinking and it took me a couple of years to get myself reassembled."21 He returned to Ohio where he had the opportunity to attend Kent State University for a year and graduate with a Bachelor of Science in education. The degree would be useful if later he combined his career with teaching. "Even though I took the academic work I also did a great deal of painting. I was painting and I was finding myself."22 His name was well known in Ohio and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown offered him a one-man show. The Butler has important American collections, including a masterpiece, Steam Turbine, 1936, by Charles Sheeler, a precisionist painter and photographer he admired. Anuszkiewicz's first museum show featured the realistic pictures he had painted before Yale. It was both a retrospective and a leave-taking.
Out of Albers' sight, the young artist felt free to apply what he had learned. "Kent is really where I started painting seriously. I was starting to use color as I'm using it now—warm and cool contrasting colors. I started working for the first time nonobjectively.