American Arts Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1424 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

OP art is a term that refers to visual art that makes use of optical illusions in its overall aesthetic effect. Other names for op art include geometrical abstraction, perceptual abstraction, and hard edge abstraction - although the name op art has endured throughout most of its history. While op art is done in a variety of artistic genres, it has mostly been confined to painting throughout its relatively brief history. In this paper, we will evaluate the history of op art, looking to its humble origins, while investigating the genre's main characteristics and practitioners. We hope to show why op art has been popular not only among artists, but among the public at large, as well.

Traces of the origins of op art can be found in the German Constructivist School known as the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus were known more as a philosophical and design school than they were as artists. Their design philosophy was rooted in the idea of "form and function" over purely aesthetic pleasure. The Bauhaus filtered all their ideas through serious, rational analysis. This movement would be imported to the United States with the rise of the Third Reich in Germany in the early 1930s, when the original Bauhaus academy was forced to close and many of its leading personalities fled to America. The 1930s and 1940s would see the creation of several proto-op works, including several works by Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian artist.

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John McHale created some of the first op art works in the 1950s. McHale's black and white Dazzle panels were featured in the important exhibition "This is Tomorrow," held in London's Whitechapel Gallery in 1956. It was not until 1964, however, that the term "op art" first came into being in an article in Time magazine.

Term Paper on American Arts Assignment

The 1960s would see the explosion of op art as a formal genre in modern art. In 1965, the first major op art show was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Curated by William C. Seitz, the exhibition featured works by such artists as Frank Stella, Alexander Liberman, Vasarely, and Bridget Riley. Theoreticians and artists focused on art that not only deceived the eye into believing that movement was occurring in a picture, but also on the interaction among colors in these works. The public was thrilled with this exhibition, and op art became massively popular. Critics were harsher on op art, however. They felt that it represented nothing more than trompe l'oeil, or tricks of the eye - it was regarded as a gimmick, rather than a genuine artistic movement.

The visual language of op art is built on an interrogation in to the way human visual perception functions. It is rooted in a complex figure-ground relationship. Op art works consist of two planes that interact in a way that is dense and somehow contradictory. There are two dominant methods within op art. The best known of these involves the elicitation of effects via a utilization of line and pattern. These paintings tend to be either black and white or grisaille. One of the best-known instances of this method is Current, a painting by Bridget Riley from the 1960s. In this famous image, wavy black and white lines are situated to close to one another on the surface of the canvas. This gives rise to a volatile figure-ground relationship. If you look at it for too long, your eyes start to hurt. Thanks to the way our eyes perceive light, after-images of certain colors are also produced after looking at the painting for any significant length of time. This is because where dark and light cross paths, color comes into being, as darkness and light are the two primary properties that come into play in the creation of color.

Riley would later go beyond her black and white canvases to create works in full color. Many other op artists would turn to color as well as a field of expression. These works are not so well-known in the op art canon, but are still important. Josef Albers of the Bauhaus taught two of the most important color practitioners of the op art movement. Richard Anuszkiewicz and Julian Stanczak would both go on to become important op artists.

Op art in color tends… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "American Arts" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

American Arts.  (2008, April 24).  Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

MLA Format

"American Arts."  24 April 2008.  Web.  1 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"American Arts."  April 24, 2008.  Accessed April 1, 2020.