What Is Op Art, and Why Are Some People So Obsessed With It?

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Op art, in the 1960s and 1970s, seemed to be the most important art movement to come along since abstract expressionism. It was a perfect fit for a time of social upheaval, political activism, and strong artistic personalities. Where abstract expressionism had been all about individual expression, op art stressed the idea that art should address collective concerns.

Op art was also an early form of “high tech,” using computer graphics techniques that hadn’t really been invented yet. The work of Bridget Riley and others became some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

But by the 1990s, op art was long forgotten by most people–so much so that when Fritz Haeg installed an op-art garden at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2001, it made international headlines as if it were something new. What happened?

If you saw some of the first Op Art pieces, you might have been a little confused. But as the movement grew and grew, it got stranger and stranger. Eventually, some artists started making pieces that had so many different things going on that they were impossible to understand.

This was not a coincidence. It was central to the way the movement worked.

The basic idea behind Op Art was to take images that were already in your brain—things like spirals and grids and checkerboards—and make them move or change somehow. That simple idea led to all kinds of strange results, including some truly disturbing works and several famous accidents involving people tripping over their own feet while looking at an Op Art painting.

But most of these new kinds of art were just experiments meant to push the boundaries of what could be done with this basic idea. The real goal was more ambitious: to use science’s growing understanding of how the human brain works to invent a new kind of art that would capture people’s attention in a new way.”

One of the most prominent involves dividing a canvas into geometric or organic shapes, then using color and shading to create the illusion of a third dimension. Op art paintings often have wavy or zigzagging lines that appear to move around in space.

The movement can be subtle, or it can be intense—like the famous work “Zebra” by Bridget Riley, in which rows of black and white stripes ebb and flow like ocean waves.

Another popular type of op art features painting that seems to pulsate, shatter, or disappear when viewed from different angles.

The goal is always to trick the eye.

Op art artists are usually interested in more than just visual trickery, however. Many also want to explore how viewers perceive reality itself. They want to blur the line between what is real and what is fake. In this sense, op art is closely tied to many other types of abstract art, including surrealism and abstract expressionism.”

What is Op art?

Op art, short for optical art, is a visual art movement that was popular in the 1960s. It’s also known as optical illusion or illusionism.

It’s most famous for its use of vibrant colors and contrasting geometric shapes to create a series of visuals that are meant to trick the eye into perceiving movement, color or shapes that aren’t there.

The movement is said to have started in England in the late 1950s but didn’t gain traction until the mid-1960s. From there, it spread around the world and had a strong following in New York City throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

In this article, you’ll learn about different types of op art, who pioneered it and what made it so unique.

The Art World’s Undiscovered Gem

Although op art hasn’t been as popular since its heyday in the 1960s, today it attracts collectors and enthusiasts who see it as an undiscovered gem of the contemporary art world. A 2013 article by Hyperallergic claims that at auction prices were climbing and that many collectors were beginning to take notice.

There’s a lot to look at when it comes to op art, which can be beautiful and thought-provoking at the same time. Here

What exactly is Op Art? The first thing to realize about Op Art, also known as Optical Art, is that it’s not a single movement. It’s more like a general direction that artists took, in the same way that “abstract art” is more of a style than a single movement.

The first artist to make use of the optical illusions in his work was Victor Vasarely. His best known piece, “Zebra,” made use of various shapes within the painting that were each based on specific mathematical ratios. For example, he used a shape in the upper right corner of his painting that was based on a rectangle with sides of 1 and √2:

To most viewers, this shape appears to be at an angle, even though it isn’t slanted at all. Vasarely used this and other illusions like it as the basis for his art.

Though Vasarely didn’t invent the idea of using optical illusions, he did bring it into vogue and get other artists thinking about it. As a result, many of these artists added illusions to their own works in different ways.

One interesting thing about some of these artists’ paintings is that they often seem to contradict each other. Many people have pointed out that “Magic Eye

While the term “op art” was coined by critics, it’s not clear that artists themselves used it. One artist, however, has claimed that he invented the name himself: Bridget Riley. In a 2012 interview with The Telegraph, she said: “I was looking for a word to describe this particular kind of work, and I came up with ‘optical.’ It was only later that I discovered that Dali had already used it.” (Riley is mistaken about Dali. The word op art appeared in print as early as 1962.)

In an interview with BOMB magazine in 2014, Barry Schwabsky cited a different origin story: “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an interview with Victor Vasarely or not where he says he invented the term ‘optical art’ to describe what he did.” Schwabsky also noted that Riley has suggested that the term optical is too closely associated with photography to be useful for paintings. Instead, she prefers the term “visual music.”

The term “op art” was coined by the American art critic, Lawrence Alloway, in 1962. He gave a series of lectures at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that year, which were later published as the book The Avant-Garde and the Post-Industrial Society. In these lectures, he used the term to describe any work of art whose form was intended to compete with, or disrupt, its content – a kind of visual playfulness. One of Alloway’s examples was Bridget Riley’s painting ‘The Poppy Field’ (1959), which consists of bands of color that create optical effects when seen from a distance.

The critic Robert Pincus-Witten extended Alloway’s definition in his 1966 essay Post-Op Art, writing: “Klee’s title [for one of his works] ‘Composition VIII’, Picabia’s collage ‘Parade’, Sonia Delaunay’s abstractions and Escalier de service [by Jean Tinguely] are all examples of post-objective art… These artists have in common an experimental attitude toward the nature and function of art.”

Pincus-Witten was interested in artists who had moved on from pure abstraction to investigate more conceptual concerns,

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