Grand Illusions

For a lot of the work in the main gallery, Anuszkiewicz turned to painted wood and aluminum to take the pieces into three dimensions. The 96-by-168-inch Rainbow I (1986) fans nine columns of ridged wood into a sort of peacock-tail of colors. With such recent works as Red and Blue Squares, Summer Mix, and Intersecting Red, all from 1994, Anuszkiewicz pares his materials back to minimalist basics, using slender bars of painted aluminum mounted on flat, white platforms. Dramatically lit from above, the pieces cast shadowy ghosts onto the walls behind them.

As exuberant as so many are, these works also have something chilly about them. Op art and its successors are, in a sense, abstraction at its most mechanical and sterile. The very mathematical precision that gives such art its vibrant optical effects also diminishes its emotional impact. But, then again, I admittedly favor gestural painting, in which the artist's hand is always evident -- painting that makes us vividly aware of the manipulation of pigment on a surface.

Such "painterliness" is evident in the wall of Anuszkiewicz's works from the '50s, before he so thoroughly embraced the rigorous techniques of op art. It's also prominent in the small but impressive exhibit running concurrently with the Anuszkiewicz show. "Janet Siegel Rogers: Doorways" takes up one small gallery, its walls painted black, the better to showcase the artist's 15 small pieces, all painted this year.

Rogers is an Anuszkiewicz disciple who, ironically, restores the gesturalism that he has so methodically eliminated from his work. She works on a much smaller scale -- roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper -- for this series of oil-encaustic-on-board paintings, which seem closer in spirit and execution to abstract expressionism than to op art.

The paintings are grouped in clusters of a few each and mounted so that they seem to float inside plain wooden boxes. Several of them, from only a few feet away, appear almost flat and monochromatic. But if you shift your position ever so slightly, the colors and textures of the pictures also shift, revealing marvelously varied networks of delicate brush strokes. Take a step in another direction, and the images alter again as the light plays on their surfaces.

The trio of Primary I, Primary II, and Primary III, for instance, are remarkable explorations of shades of yellow, red, and blue, respectively. Afterglow features warm golden yellows that gradually give way to patches of white. And the gorgeous Gold Over the Everglades introduces a more sharply defined horizon line even as it transforms its subject into a minimalist landscape.

Rogers may have departed from the austere technical precision that makes Anuszkiewicz's work, on its own terms, so effective. But she has also embraced a gesturalism that gives her work an emotional richness that sets it apart. By juxtaposing these two contrasting but complementary exhibitions, the Boca Museum does justice to both artists.

"Richard Anuszkiewicz: Retrospective" and "Janet Siegel Rogers: Doorways" are on display through January 10 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 801 W. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton, 561-392-2500.

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