Op Art (short for Optical Art) is an art movement that emerged in the late 1950s and early 60s. It is a distinct style of art that purposely tricks the eye, to create the illusion of movement and color. Using a variety of techniques, including precise lines, repetitive patterns, stark contrast, and perspective, these op art achieves a three-dimensional, puzzle-like quality.
1. Bridget Riley
Concentrate on Bridget Riley's "Dominance Portfolio, Blue" (1977) for even a few seconds, and it begins to dance and wave in front of your eyes. One of the most influential artists working in Op Art is Bridget Riley. Her early work was greatly influenced by Georges Seurat's 'pointillist' style. However, since 1961, Riley, who meticulously designs her drawings, has had her assistants do the actual paintings.
2. Victor Vasarely
Op Art's earliest proponent, Vasarely's painting, 'Zebra', is considered to be one of the first examples of work produced in this genre. In the beginning, he was most influenced by Cezanne. Later, his work was greatly influenced by the artist, Kandinsky, and the Bauhaus movement. In the 60s, he began painting in his trademark 'checkerboard' style that is immediately recognizable.
3. Richard Anuskiewicz
Anuskiewicz studied under artist, Josef Albers in the 1950s. His works often incorporate repetitive geometric patterns. Especially noteworthy is his use of vibrant, neon-like colors. In particular, his work explores the optical changes that occur when different high-intensity colors are placed in close proximity.
4. Josef Albers
German artist, Josef Albers, emigrated to the U.S. in 1933, where he headed the art department at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Then, for most of the 1950s, he headed the art department at Yale University. His art typically elevates the importance of color over form. His famous 'Homage to the Square' series, for example, uses a single square shape to explore an array of visual effects created through the use of color alone. As a teacher, his Bauhaus background influenced the works of many of his students, including Richard Anuskiewicz.
5. Yaacov Agam
Israeli artist, Agam is, perhaps, best known for his 'art in motion' pieces, or kinetic art. And some of his best known works, such as the 'Fire and Water Fountain' in Tel Aviv, are architectural in nature. But he has contributed much to the Op Art genre, as well, as evidenced by his 'Message of Peace 1980'.
Carlos Cruz-Diez was a Venezuelan artist, and considered by some to have been "one of the greatest artistic innovators of the 20th century". Typical of other Op Art practitioners, his work is relies on the moiré effect, in which lines of contrasting color give the impression of movement. Highlighting the essence of Op Art, and its close relative, Kinetic Art, he once said, "With the kind of art that I , you see a situation—an instant. It constantly changes because light constantly changes."