What Is Op Art?

What Is Op Art?

Op art is an abbreviation for 'optical art.' The term optical refers to things that have to do with how we perceive things. Have you ever witnessed an optical illusion?

Op art operates similarly. Artists manipulate forms, colors, and patterns to produce images that appear to be moving or blurring.

Op art began in the 1960s, pictures by Bridget Riley, are one of the most well-known of the op artists.


What does the term "op" mean in the context of art?

Optical art, or op art, is a form of visual art that employs optical illusions. Op art is abstract, with many of the most well-known pieces being created in black and white.

They usually create the sense of movement, concealed pictures, flashing and rippling patterns, or expanding and warping to the spectator.

What distinguishes op art from other forms of art?

Artists of the Op Art movement created complex and paradoxical visual environments by manipulating simple repetitive forms like parallel lines, patchwork patterns, and hexagonal shapes. Which produces color friction by juxtaposing complementary tonally hues of equal intensity.


What is the definition of an Op Art design?

Op Art refers to geometric designs that are precisely engineered to fool the eye or create an optical illusion – the idea that a solid surface is three-dimensional or dynamic. Some of the patterns appear to expand, swirl, or spin.

Origins of the Op Art movement

In 1964, Time magazine invented the term op art to describe a type of abstract art (particularly non-objective art) that employs optical illusions in reaction to Julian Stanczak's exhibit Optical Paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery. Before Time's 1964 story, works dubbed "op art" had been created for several years. 

How Op-Art Works

The physical connection between the eye and the brain is exploited in op art.  Certain patterns generate misunderstanding between the eye and the brain causing illogical optical phenomena to be perceived.


What are the characteristics of Op Art?

Although Op can be considered as a continuation of geometric abstraction, its emphasis on illusion and perception indicates it may have ancient forerunners. It employs basic geometric patterns that are combined to create more complicated figures. 

Who is the creator of Op Art?

The artist Victor Vasarely is widely credited with originating or launching the Op Art movement. 


Famous Op Art artists

Victor Vasarely

Victor Vasarely is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the field of optical art. He drew inspiration and guidance from Bauhaus, Suprematism, and geometric abstraction theories.

He was born in PĂ©cs, Hungary, and lived in Piestany and Budapest, where he learned the fundamentals of formal academic painting as well as the Bauhaus movement.

François Morellet

François Morellet was an artist, graphic designer, and sculptor who was born in 1926 in Cholet, a tiny town in the Loire Valley.  

François Morellet's experimental work was similar to that of Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, and Dan Flavin. Morellet experimented with a wide range of techniques and used a variety of materials in his work, including steel, iron, sticky tape, wire mesh, and hardwood.


Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley is a well-known Op Art painter who is most known for her eye-catching murals made up of numerous stripes that create optical illusions for the observer.

Her black and white geometric designs play with the dynamic of vision, generating a jarring impact on the eyes and the illusion of motion.

Richard Anuskiewicz

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he is among the pioneers and most prominent practitioners of Op Art. In a 1964 profile on him, Life magazine referred to him as "one of the new wizards of Op Art."

Anuskiewicz was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he discovered and became fascinated in Op Art.

Op Art and Kinetic Art are two types of art

Kinetic Art debuted in 1955 at Le Mouvement, a collective exhibition at Galerie Denise Rene in Paris. In 1965, the international show The Responsive Eye in New York honored both styles.

Both Op and Kinetic Art were fascinated by motion, yet Op artists were more interested in how virtual movement might be created on a flat surface, whilst Kinetic artists were more interested in real movement in space.


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