Op Art History and Origins
Op Art is short for “optical art,” and the phrase first appeared in the middle of the 1960s. So what is optical art? Abstract patterns, often in black and white, and a sharp contrast between the background and foreground are some of the key characteristics of the style. The resulting pictures are visually stimulating but also confusing and ambiguous. The viewer experiences a swelling, warping, flashing, or vibrating sensation, and afterimages.
What Is Op Art?
Op art is an art style that originated in the middle of the 20th century. It is a type of geometric abstract art that deals with optical illusion. It is a subgenre of abstract or concrete art that uses non-representational geometric forms to create a number of optical illusions. Op Art artworks, for example, may give the viewer’s eye the impression that the painting’s surface is moving (e.g., swelling, warping, flashing, or vibrating). In addition, rather than being chosen for their complexity or emotional depth, the patterns, forms, and colors used in these images are commonly combined because of their illusionistic qualities. Op artists manipulate shapes and colors in a systematic and precise way.
To understand Op Art, we have to look back on the movements that made it possible. Abstract art is an expression of non-objective creative beauty in which the artist does not mimic the appearance of natural forms but rather conveys the sincerity of his work via the use of surrealist characteristics.
Geometric abstract art is a kind of creative expression that uses straightforward geometric shapes to evoke subjectivity in compositions in fantastical settings. Contemporary art known as “kinetic art” focuses on creating optical illusions by using items that alter in response to physical or virtual movements. Luminous Kinetic Art focuses on the creative matter in places, light, and time while using actual motions as a component of the work.
When Did Op Art Start?
They say that seeing is believing, but Op Art shows that your eyes aren’t always to be trusted. Op Art, which stands for “Optical Art,” is distinguished by geometric patterns that appear to vibrate, spin, or bend when viewed. When psychedelic motifs began to permeate fashion, design, and art in the swinging ’60s, the style became incredibly popular, but Op Art was more than just a fad.
Visualization and Art
Artists have always been fascinated by the nature of perception. However, in the 1950s, when advances in psychology and technology provided insights into the relationship between the outside world, our eyesight, our brain, and our experiences, Op Art emerged as a movement rooted on the viewing experience. Op artists explored the unexpected psychological and physiological responses to visual stimuli by experimenting with contrasting lines and geometric patterns that, to the observer, looked to vibrate or move. Viewers have occasionally reported experiencing vertigo and nausea, proving that images have the power to cause physical reactions.
Conceptually, Op Art presented a fresh viewpoint on the purpose of painting. The idea of involvement started to become more widely accepted in art around the 1960s. Kinetic art involved sculptures that moved in relation to the viewer’s body, while “happenings” were performances that took place in the course of daily life and involved the spectators. By demanding the presence of a viewer in order to activate its optical illusion, Op Art was painting’s contribution to participatory art.
Notable Op Artists and Exhibitions
Le Mouvement, a group show held in 1955 at Galerie Denise Rene in Paris, featured artists at the vanguard of both the Op Art and Kinetic Art movements, but the works wouldn’t be referred to as “Op Art” for nearly ten years. It was in a 1964 review of Julian Stanczak’s “Optical Paintings” exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York, that writer and artist Donald Judd introduced the phrase.
Op Art quickly gained popularity around the world, most notably when it was included in the exhibition “The Responsive Eye” at the Museum of Modern Art, which featured works by artists such as Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelley, Wen-Ying Tsai, Victor Vasarely, Alexander Liberman, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Getulio Alviani, and Bridget Riley.
The most well-known artworks of the Op Art movement are probably Bridget Riley’s enormous, disorienting, black-and-white paintings. The British artist explored contrasted black and white compositions between 1961 and 1964, occasionally using tonal gray gradations. Fall, one of her most well-known pieces, was displayed in her 1962 solo exhibition at Musgrave’s GalleryOne. The piece was created by studio assistants after the artist completed extensive research, just like all of her works since 1961.
Op Art closely resembled the psychedelic aesthetics of the 1960s, but artists had been experimenting with pattern and perception long before the movement gained popularity. Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian-French artist, is regarded by many as the father of Op Art and created one of the genre’s initial works in the 1930s. Vasarely began working with Op Art in 1935 with The Chess Board, despite the fact that he had mostly been creating figurative paintings and portraits in the 1920s and early 1930s.
The Science Behind Op Art
Artists were able to create dissonant figure-ground connections by using lines and geometric shapes in contrasting colors, mostly black and white. It would appear as though lines and objects alternated between moving into the foreground and disappearing into the background. The observer is made to feel the patterns move by creating a vibrating effect, which for some people induces nausea or vertigo.
Moreover, some black-and-white works of Op Art lead viewers to see colored forms that are afterimages that our brains produce based on signals that our eyes send but that we do not actually sense. Using colors from opposing sides of the color wheel, certain painters, including Stanczak, Anuszkiewicz, and Riley, created optical illusions.
Op Art does not happen by chance. Each component used in an Op Art creation is carefully selected to get the desired impact. Each color, line, and shape must add to the composition as a whole in order for the illusion to succeed. To effectively produce Op Art-inspired art, a lot of thought and planning must be put in.
The so-called gimmick was criticized as a passing trend by several critics during the height of the Op Art movement. While the graphic patterns that distinguished the movement were marketed and commodified in the fashion and design sectors that liked to borrow them, Op artists remain important for having profoundly transformed the connection between artwork and perception.