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Op Art (Optical Art)

164 artworks, 12 artists
Op art, short for optical art, is an artistic direction that is based on the use of optical illusions, which exist because of the visual characteristics of human eyes in perceiving flat and spatial figures. The works of this style also have other names: “retina art”, “painting of visual illusions”, “geometric abstract supergraphic”, “visual illusion”. The meaning of the illusion art is that the final visual version of the artist’s work is not located on the canvas, but is recreated in the viewer’s brain.

The artists created their first optical illusions at the beginning of the 20th century, and after the Responsive Eye exhibition of 1965 in New York, op art conquered Europe and America having become an intellectual alternative to mass pop art. Art critics recognized Victor Vasarely, who created the mosaics with three-dimensional effect, as the founder of the art movement. The op art works puzzled the viewer, frightened, surprised and ... annoyed, which got them a label of the “art that causes nausea”. A decade later, op art found application in industrial and domestic design, architecture, fashion industry, and psychology.

Optical artists set the task to deceive the eye, provoke a false reaction and cause a phantom — a nonexistent image. The key tools of the style are not materials or a palette, but a geometric sequence; thus, painting gave way to graphics. The optical artworks are not endowed with an objective image or meaning, but are a set of similar geometric shapes or elements on a background surface. When looking at a picture, the viewer recognizes objects, images, portraits, sees vibration and movement, and becomes a co-artist of the artwork.

Op art pictures:
Portrait of a Man” 1920, “Pessimist - Optimist” 1944, “Liberation” 1955 by Maurits Cornelis Escher; “Zebras” 1942, “Munich Olympiad” 1972 by Victor Vasarely.

Op artists:
Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Rafael Soto, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Getulio Alviani, Richard Anuszkiewicz.
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