What Exactly is op art? How it’s defined and what the art scenes look like today

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Op art is a term that was coined by the art critic Lawrence Alloway in the mid-sixties, to refer to an emerging trend in abstract art. By today’s standards, this kind of work does not seem especially radical. But Alloway chose his label well—as an “op” it is a word whose meaning is its opposite. In other words, op art is about something other than what it appears to be about.

The term has since been applied to a variety of artistic styles that have one thing in common: the use of visual confusion or illusion to produce an experience of perceptual distortion. Although this effect can be produced in many ways, it is usually done with color and pattern. Op art works often have a geometric patterning that produces a sense of movement or vibration when viewed from a distance, or when seen out of the corner of one’s eye.

Taken as a whole, op art offers an interesting perspective on how we perceive patterns and shapes. It also illustrates how our understanding of these things can be influenced by cultural context and shifting ideas about what is beautiful and what isn’t.*

The term “op art” was coined in 1962 and gained popularity in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Op artists used optical illusions to confound the viewer’s understanding of depth, motion and structure. The movement is often considered to have begun with Victor Vasarely’s work in the 1940s.

The typical way of creating an illusion in op art is by using a pattern or a set of colors that are arranged in such a way that they create an impression of movement. The use of optically active material is what distinguishes op art from other styles of abstract or non-representational painting.

No matter how you define it, one thing is for sure: Op Art is not just about optical effects anymore. And that’s why it deserves a new definition.

Op art is a post-modern art form that can be seen as a “movement” which is the era of abstract and nonobjective art. It’s technically a style made up of geometric shapes, but it’s also more than that. It was a style used in many different kinds of visual arts like painting and sculpture. Op art includes many different artists, some who used it only for one particular piece or for a few pieces, others who based their entire careers on the style. What makes it all the same is the use of optical illusions in their work and the belief that there is no single correct perspective from which to view their work.

The term op art was coined by Lawrence Alloway in his article “The Aesthetics of Op Art,” published in Artforum magazine in 1962. He derived it from the term Optical Art which itself was coined in 1936 by Marcel Duchamp to describe another movement known as Futurism. The Futurists were a group of Italian artists in the early 20th century who were interested in the new technology of their time, especially technology related to transportation such as cars and airplanes (wikipedia).

In Alloway’s article he describes how “Op Art is based on an optical illusion [and] exploits the fact that

Op art is a term coined by art critic Lawrence Alloway to describe work that uses optical illusions. More specifically, the illusion of motion, as in the work of American artist Bridget Riley (born 1931). Op art is also referred to as optical art, kinetic art, and minimalistic painting.


Op Art was a term coined by the English art critic Lawrence Alloway in 1962 to describe works by artists including Bridget Riley, …

What’s the difference between a painting and a drawing? Or between a painting and a sculpture? What’s the difference between abstract art, surrealism, realism? These are some of the questions I’m going to attempt to answer. I will be discussing various artists’ works, along with my own experiences in the art world. Please feel free to comment.

For many, art is a way of communicating. They create a piece and then hope to reach out and touch someone with it. Others take the more passive approach and let the viewer decide what their work means. These are the conceptual artists.

Then there are those who feel that art is an extension of their personality, and the more shocking the better. These are the performance artists. And finally, there are those who create just for the sake of creating, not caring if anyone else finds their work worthy of attention. These are the abstract or nonobjective artists.

Taken as a whole, these three categories encompass all of art, though they also overlap in some cases — particularly when a performance artist creates conceptual art or an abstract artist uses shocking imagery in his creations.”

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