Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fine Art or Optical Trickery?

In 1965, TIME magazine coined the phrase, "Op Art" which was a shorthand description for optical art. Op Art refers to nonrepresentational art where the color and perspective give the viewer a sense of movement, patterns or vibrations. (Victor Vasarely's work on right)

Starting in the 60s, Op Art style was the rage in fashion, architecture, decorating and advertising. It was considered by a many to be a very hip new art form created by young emerging artists.

In fact, not only had artists such as M.C. Escher and Josef Albers been experimenting with color and perspectives for decades, but the artists most associated with Op Art in the 60s were: Bridget Riley (1931), Victor Vasarely (1908-1997), Richard Anuskiewicz (1930). In other words, these were older and more highly experienced artist.

In spite of the popularity of Op Art, there were art critics who contended that it really wasn't a fine art style. Instead, they contended that since the goal of Op Art is to fool the eye - much like trompe l'oeil painted murals which create illusory scenes of depth - Op Art was nothing more than art trickery. (Bridget Riley at left and below left - Richard Anuskiewicz below right.)

Below is an example of trompe l'oeil.

What do you think? Fine Art or optical trickery?


  1. I don't know. Is there a definition for "fine art"? Somehow the op-art seems more like drafting, something mechanical that can be done with a compass and ruler. On the other hand there would need to be an understanding of color and light in order to create the illusion.


  2. HI SZ,

    I couldn't agree more. It would seem that the artist would need a very high level of understanding about color and perspective to create the illusion.. maybe they are magicians...Ra

  3. I did some of this as class assignments back in the 60s. Interesting stuff. MA

  4. I'm not sure it is fine art, but it sure is fascinating. These artists must have labored over these, but I imagine it can be done by computer now.

  5. It's art and I love it! FB

  6. I guess I would say "optical trickery" regardless of the color or perspective. Although they both have a hand in tricking your eyes to see unusual shapes and movement (although nothing really moves!) FAB