Today @ AK

Victor Vasarely

French, 1908–1997

© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Vega-Nor, 1969

Oil on canvas
78 3/4 x 78 3/4 inches (200 x 200 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1969

Vega-Nor is an excellent example of Op art, a movement that developed in the 1960s. Op artists were interested in the scientific properties of color and line, and studied how the eye’s retina processes information and how that information is translated in the brain. They found that through the manipulation of color and line, our perception can be fooled—thus the name Op art, which refers to optics and optical illusions.

The illusion of a sphere on a flat surface was created through specific ways of using color, shape, and line. Warm colors such as orange and yellow tend to advance in space, and were chosen to surround the central squares, thus making them seem to pop out. The largest and least distorted shapes are in the center as well. Shapes become progressively thinner and smaller as they get farther away from the center, which makes them seem to recede into space. The lines also reinforce the illusion. The center horizontal and vertical lines are straight, even though they may not at first appear to be so, while the others curve at carefully calculated angles. The small squares in each corner are the same size and painted with straight lines, creating a convincing background for the illusionistic sphere.

There is more to Vasarely’s art than the science of colors and optics, however. He was also very interested in a democratic form of art that everyone could understand, not just those with certain types of educational backgrounds and experiences. Op art serves that goal well. There is no story to tell, history to know, or symbolism essential to the work’s comprehension.

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