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Feature Archive

September, 1999: Spotlight on Optical Art

Op Art is the term everyone uses; however in its narrowest sense that refers to a specific artistic movement in the 1960's, and by that time two of the best-known 20th-century artists working with perception and optical illusion, M.C. Escher and Victor Vasarely, had been experimenting in this area for decades. The less common Optical Art is a more inclusive term.
Optical Art is a mathematically-oriented form of (usually) abstract art, which uses repetition of simple forms and colors to create vibrating effects, moiré patterns, an exaggerated sense of depth, foreground-background confusion, and other visual effects.
In a sense all painting is based on tricks of visual perception: using rules of perspective to give the illusion of three-dimensional space, mixing colors to give the impression of light and shadow, and so on. With Optical Art, the rules that the eye applies to makes sense of a visual image are themselves the "subject" of the artwork.
Escher, Vasarely, and Josef Albers were early experimenters with Optical Art. The Op Art group included Bridget Riley, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Kenneth Noland, and Lawrence Poons.
The featured artist for September is M.C. Escher, the visionary graphic artist so well known for his stunning patterns and paradoxes.

The featured museum site is the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. Click here for a brief review of the site.

The featured online exhibit is Trompe l'oeil: The Art of Deception, the online version of a travelling exhibit mounted by the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden. We haven't come across a really good online exhibit specifically pertaining to Optical Art, but this collection of still life and photorealist artwork is chock full of visual trickery. Click here for a brief review of the exhibit and to visit it.

M.C. Escher Book The featured book from Amazon.com for this month is M.C. Escher: His Life and Complete Graphic Work. Rated a 5 star book by Amazon readers, this book is a great collection of his works.

The featured print from AllPosters.com is the wonderful Movement In Squares, by Bridget Riley, probably the best-known member of the Op Art movement. Movement In Squares

Previous Features
  August, 1999
Animals in Art
Artist: Antoine-Louis Barye
Museum: National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Exhibit: PBS: American Visions
Book: Natural Worlds, by Robert Bateman
Print: A la Bodiniere, by Théophile Steinlen
  July, 1999
Artist: Odd Nerdrum
Museum: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Exhibit: Virtuo Official Magritte Site
Book: Mystery of Magritte CD-ROM
Print: Santiago El Grande, by Salvador Dalí
  June, 1999
Artist: Audrey Flack
Museum: Carol Gerten's Fine Art
Exhibit: Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995
Book: Anish Kapoor
Print: Cupid And Psyche, by Antonio Canova
  May, 1999
Women in the Arts
Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe
Museum: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
Exhibit: Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs
Book: Cindy Sherman: Retrospective
Print: Self-Portrait with Monkeys, by Frida Kahlo
  April, 1999
The Golden Age of Illustration
Artist: Maxfield Parrish
Museum: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
Exhibit: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe online
Books: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe
Print: Cinderella (Enchantment), by Maxfield Parrish
  March, 1999
Vincent van Gogh
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
Museum: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Exhibit: The Vincent van Gogh Information Gallery
Book: Van Gogh's Van Goghs
Print: Terrasse de Cafe
  February, 1999
Great Art
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Museum: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Exhibit: John Singleton Copley: Watson and the Shark
Book: The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
Print: L'Astronomia, by Raphael