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Twentieth Century Art: OP Art
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Intro to OP Art

     OP Art, aka Optical Art, is another art style that was developed during the 20th century. There was no specific time when it was created; however artists had been designing optical illusions in their paintings for a while, and they became especially popular in the second half of the 20th century. The first painting that is considered Optical Art-themed is Zebra, done by Victor Vasarely in 1938. Eventually the term "OP Art" was coined by Time Magazine in 1964 to describe this type of art. After a large demonstration of OP Art in 1965, during the exhibition called The Responsive Eye, the public became intrigued in this art style and it soon gained popularity.
     Even though at first glance these examples of OP Art look simple to make with a computer or graphics designing software, one must realize that this wasn't an option for the artists when this style was created. OP Art involved lots of mathematics and planning to create, and many of the pieces were very time consuming. The technical skill that the artists needed to produce OP Art is commendable.

How do you recognize OP Art?

     It makes use of optical illusions, geometric shapes, and forms of perception to make the subject look like it is moving, flashing, warping, or otherwise not staying as a static image. Afterall, the main purpose of OP Art is to fool the eye and confuse the viewer. All of OP Art is non-representational, because all it is is a lot of geometric shapes. A technique that OP artists used was to juxtapose two highly contrasting colors, usually black and white, to create a sense of depth on a 2-d canvas. Another technique was to position a geometric figure in such a way that it could be seen in two different points of view simultaneously. The elements used in an Optical painting are selected to achieve maximum overall effect. A generic example of OP Art is seen to the left.

Painters that practiced this art style

      Bridget Riley, Carlos Cruz-Díez, Günther Uecker, Jesús Rafael Soto, John McHale, Julian Stanczak, Julio Le Parc, Richard Allen, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Victor Vasarely, Yaacov Agam, Youri Messen-Jaschin