Dates: 1950-1965

Origin: Europe, United States

Key Artists: Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely

a journalist’s rhyming label, in the era of Pop art, for ‘optical’ art that relies entirely upon the sensations created by visual processes. It was an international form of geometric abstract painting and sculpture which assumed importance as a style in the 1960s, evolving from the work of artists like Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely, who became one of its leading exponents. Adopting theories from the psychology of perception, the Op artists manipulated colour, line, and shape to induce vibrant effects of shifting, flickering, and even dazzling surfaces, sometimes so startlingly that the work appears to throb with energy and movement. The geometric images, whether very simple or extraordinarily complex, and the colours are meticulously worked out in advance of painting to ensure a precise result. Thereafter, since technical rather than artistic skills were required, the painting was sometimes undertaken by studio assistants. The term Op art was first used anonymously in Time magazine (23 Oct. 1964), and a major exhibition, The Responsive Eye, followed in 1965 (New York, MoMa). Op art, particularly the work of the British painter Bridget Riley, was plagiarized by 1960s and 1970s fashion and popular graphics.

Jones, Yvonne. “Op art.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e1914&gt;

Victor Vasarely

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