Op Art, short for Optical Art, is an artistic movement born in the 60s characterised by endless permutations of forms and colours to create optical illusions and mesmerising experiences.
It was with the exhibition ‘The Responsive Eye’, held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1965, that the term Op Art entered the public consciousness. Op Art captured the imagination of the public and became part of the Swinging Sixties: the fashion, design and advertising industries fell in love with its graphic, sign-like patterns and decorative value.
The exhibition showed artists such as Victor Vasarely, immediately dubbed the ‘father of Op Art’ Bridget Riley, who became Britain’s number one art celebrity and the American painter Richard Anuszkiewicz.
In Vasarely’s paintings - as with Optical Art in general - the feeling of movement and depth are created by his use of lines of decreasing scale advancing towards the centre of the canvas – the further we look in to the centre, the further away the field appears to be from us. The use of changing colours across the field also serves to provide the viewer with the feeling of kinetic energy, depth and space. Vasarely created beautiful artworks, prints and multiples.
Bridget Riley, one of the most important artists of the 20th century and chief representative of Op Art in Britain, increasingly used colour in her career. She always used more stabilised forms – often simple vertical straight or wavy lines. It was the positioning of the colour itself that produced the feel of movement Riley wanted to convey. The colour groupings affected the spaces between them to produce fleeting glimpses of other colours and hence the illusion of movement. Untiled (Wave) is a perfect example of Riley’s approach to art that perfectly matches the criteria of the Op Art movement.
Richard Anuszkiewicz's works are saturated with vibrant colour arranged in jarring geometric abstract compositions, formally exploring the phenomena of light, colour, and line and their effects on human perception. He focused on the optical changes that occur when different high intensity colours are applied to the same geometric configuration.
Most of his work comprises visual investigations of formal structural and colour effects, many of them nested square forms similar to the work of his mentor Josef Albers.
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