Op art 1960 – 1970

Term used as an abbreviation of ‘optical art’ to refer to painting and sculpture that exploits the illusions or optical effects of perceptual processes It was used for the first time by a writer in an unsigned article in Time magazine (23 Oct 1964) and entered common usage to designate, in particular, two-dimensional structures with strong psychophysiological effects The exhibition, The Responsive Eye, held in 1965 at MOMA, New York, under the direction of William C Seitz, showed side by side two types of visual solicitations already practised by artists for some time: perceptual ambiguity created by coloured surfaces, then at the fore in the USA, and the coercive suggestion of movement created by lines and patterns in black and white, used abundantly by European artists engaged in kinetik art The outstanding Op artists included Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Jesús Soto, Yaacov Agam, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Julio Le Parc and François Morellet

Op art, short for optical art, is a style of visual art that uses optical illusions

Op art works are abstract, with many better known pieces created in black and white Typically, they give the viewer the impression of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibrating patterns, or of swelling or warping

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Op art perhaps more closely derives from the constructivist practices of the Bauhaus This German school, founded by Walter Gropius, stressed the relationship of form and function within a framework of analysis and rationality Students learned to focus on the overall design or entire composition to present unified works Op art also stems from Trompe-l’œil and Anamorphosis Links with psychological research have also been made, particularly with Gestalt theory and Psychophysiology When the Bauhaus was forced to close in 1933, many of its instructors fled to the United States There, the movement took root in Chicago and eventually at the Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where Anni and Josef Albers eventually taught

Op art is a perceptual experience related to how vision functions It is a dynamic visual art that stems from a discordant figure-ground relationship that puts the two planes—foreground and background—in a tense and contradictory juxtaposition Artists create op art in two primary ways The first, best known method, is to create effects through pattern and line Often these paintings are black-and-white, or otherwise grisaille—as in Bridget Riley’s famous painting, Current (1964), on the cover of The Responsive Eye catalogue Here, black and white wavy lines are close to one another on the canvas surface, creating a volatile figure-ground relationship Getulio Alviani used aluminum surfaces, which he treated to create light patterns that change as the watcher moves (vibrating texture surfaces) Another reaction that occurs is that the lines create after-images of certain colors due to how the retina receives and processes light As Goethe demonstrates in his treatise Theory of Colours, at the edge where light and dark meet, color arises because lightness and darkness are the two central properties in the creation of color

Beginning in 1965 Bridget Riley began to produce color-based op art, however, other artists, such as Julian Stanczak and Richard Anuszkiewicz, were always interested in making color the primary focus of their work Josef Albers taught these two primary practitioners of the “Color Function” school at Yale in the 1950s Often, colorist work is dominated by the same concerns of figure-ground movement, but they have the added element of contrasting colors that produce different effects on the eye For instance, in Anuszkiewicz’s “temple” paintings, the juxtaposition of two highly contrasting colors provokes a sense of depth in illusionistic three-dimensional space so that it appears as if the architectural shape is invading the viewer’s space