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“Optical Spaces: The Art of Victor Vasarely”
MADI Museum, Dallas

Victor Vasarely, who was born and died in Paris (1906-1997), founded Op Art (or Optical Art), a style based on optical illusions, always geometric and abstract. His work shows how this style is intentionally related to how vision functions in the use of vibrating pattern, line and contrasting colors while discordant figure-ground relationships deliberately cause the planes to be seen in tense and contradictory juxtaposition. Op paintings intentionally create the illusion of movement.

Even in the 21st century, Vasarely’s influence is obvious in the work of Texas artists in the collection of the Museum of Geometric Art (MADI), one of them being Orna Feinstein, the admired curator of this well-organized, all-inclusive exhibit.

“Optical Spaces” contains a wide assortment of Vasarely’s paintings, prints, and sculptures dating back to the 1950s. Ornstein drew from many sources in Houston where she lives; normally two of the most characteristic, most eye-stopping prints in the exhibit decorate her family’s living room walls.

At first glance Vasarely’s prints appear too perfect to have once been in actuality a hand-drawn, hand-painted design. This perfection is most clearly apparent in these two relatively small size prints chosen from a series of four; each one in this series were made possible by Vasarely using the edition silkscreen printing process. His own devised system of infinite combinations of form and color miraculously came into being before computers were available to create the complicated compositions.

Of historical note, Vasarely was one of the artists in the important 1965 exhibit “The Responsive Eye” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition focused on the perceptual aspects of art, which result both from the illusion of movement and the interaction of color relationships. The exhibition was enormously popular with the general public and is credited with increasing the value of Op Art.

The show ends April 7.

— JUNE MATTINGLY


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