Op Art... Defined.

Op art and kinetic art have been fields of study for me for nearly 15 years now and I figured it's time to start sharing some of my wisdom on the subject with all of you, as this is my life's work and its come with years and years and years of studying masters, to reach the point in which I can call my art, uniquely my own.
What is Op-Art? - Characteristics
Op Art is a format of abstract or hard edge art consisting of non-representational geometric shapes which create various types of optical illusion through negative and positive space, varying line weights and the usage of color contrast. When executed properly, upon viewing the op art, pictures may cause the eye to detect a sense of movement (eg. swelling, warping, flashing, vibration) on the surface of the paintings and drawings. The patterns, shapes and colours used in these pictures are typically selected for their illusional qualities, rather than for their substantive or emotional content.
How Op-Art Works
Op art exploits the functional relationship between the eye's retina (the part of the body that sees patterns created by the artist) and the brain (the organic tool that interprets these designs and brings them into motion through analysis). Certain patterns cause confusion between the eyes and brain, resulting in the perception of irrational optical effects.
These effects fall into two basic categories: first, movement caused by certain specific black and white geometric patterns, such as those in Bridget Riley's earlier works, or Getulio Alviani's aluminium surfaces, which can confuse the eye even to the point of inducing physical dizziness.

Second, after-images which appear after viewing pictures with certain colours, or colour-combinations. The interaction of differing colours in the painting - simultaneous contrast, successive contrast, and reverse contrast - may cause additional retinal effects. For example, in Mark Rothko's Rothko Chapel, which truly exhibits the minimalism of approach and the utilizing of contrasting or large variation of color, in which the paintings themselves seem to come alive and breathe on the canvas, eluding there is movement, when there truly is none.
Despite its strange, often nausea-inducing effects, Op-Art is perfectly in line with traditional canons of fine art. All traditional painting is based upon the "illusion" of depth and perspective: Op-Art merely broadens its inherently illusionary nature by interfering with the rules governing optical perception.
The origins of Op Art go back to pre-war painting theories, including the constructivist ideas of the 1920s Bauhaus design school in Germany, which stressed the importance of the overall formal design, in creating a specific visual effect. When the Bauhaus closed down in 1933, many of its lecturers (notably Josef Albers) moved to America and taught in Chicago and at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Josef Albers duly produced his famous "Homage to the Square" series of paintings which had Op-Art tendencies. Meantime, from the early 1930s, the Hungarian-born painter and graphic artist Victor Vasarely was experimenting with various visual tricks such as trompe-l'oeil and others, from certain types of poster art: see his Op-Art picture Zebras (1938). Later, he turned to painting, creating the geometric abstract pictures for which he is famous. During the 1950s, the Op-Art style also appeared in John McHale's black and white Dazzle panels at the "This Is Tomorrow" exhibition in 1956. Bridget Riley began to develop her distinctive style of black-and-white optical art around 1960.
Modern interest in Op Art dates from "The Responsive Eye" exhibition, curated by William C. Seitz, which was held in 1965 at New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). A wide range of works were exhibited including those by the well-known Victor Vasarely and the contemporary Bridget Riley. Immensely popular, the show highlighted the illusion of movement and the interaction of colour relationships, neither of which found great favour from the critics.
Although the Op Art style became highly fashionable during the second half of the 1960s, it declined rapidly thereafter as a serious art form, despite periodic minor revivals. Notable exhibitions in recent times have included: "L'oeil Moteur, art optique et cinetique 1960-1975 (Musee D'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France, 2005); "Op Art" (Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany, 2007); "The Optical Edge" (The Pratt Institute of Art, New York, 2007); "Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s" (Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, 2007). Works by famous Op-artists can be seen in several of the best art museums in Europe and America.
Famous Op Artists
The senior exponent, and pioneer of Op art effects even as early as the 1930s, is Victor Vasarely, Hungarian in origin, but working in France since 1930. He has taken a radically sceptical view of traditional ideas about art and artists: in the light of modern scientific advances and modern techniques, he claims that the value of art should lie not in the rarity of an individual work, but in the rarity and originality of its meaning - which should be reproducible. He began as a graphic artist; much of his work is in (easily reproducible) black and white, though he is capable of brilliant colour. His best work is expressed in geometric, even mechanistic terms, but integrated into a balance and counterpoint that is organic and intuitive. He claims that his work contains "an architectural, abstract art form, a sort of universal folklore". His mission is of "a new city - geometrical, sunny and full of colours", resplendent with an art "kinetic, multi-dimensional and communal. Abstract, of course, and closer to the sciences". Vasarely's work can sometimes dazzle the eye, but he does not aim to disturb the spectator's equilibrium.

The effect of the work of British artist Bridget Riley can be to produce such vertigo that the eye has to look away. Though carefully programmed, her patterns are intuitive and not strictly derived from scientific or mathematical calculations, and their geometrical structure is often disguised by the illusory effects (as Vasarely's structure never is). Riley refuses to distinguish between the physiological and psychological responses of the eye.

Other artists associated with Op-Art include: Richard AnuszkiewiczJesús Rafael SotoCarlos Cruz-DiezJosef AlbersM.C. EscherYaacov AgamJean-Pierre YvaralMarina ApollonioRichard AllenDamien HirstFrank StellaGetulio AlvianiPeter SedgleyFrançois MorelletEdna AndradeJulian StanczakJulio Le ParcLudwig WildingGerhard von Graevenitz and Tauba Auerbach.

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