Op Art (op for optical) was first developed (primarily in the United States and Europe) by a group of abstract artists in the mid-20 th century. Time Magazine coined the term Op art in the 1960’s. Op art is based in mathematics, especially geometry. Op art would not exist without human perception of space, shape, and color. All of the effects used in Op art are the same ones applied in other forms of painting: perspective, space, light, shadow et cetera. No longer are the effects used to create a more convincing representation of a subject, they are the subject. The optical illusions are created by the human mind as the eye tries to make sense of the images. Op art does not exclusively apply to two-dimensions, however painting is this style is much more common than sculpture.
A common characteristic of Op art paintings is that they appear to be moving or vibrating. This sense of movement is created through the use of repetition, shape, and color.
When geometric patterns, such as parallel lines or checkerboard, are manipulated it adds dimension and space to the picture plane. When complementary colors (color opposite on the color wheel that when combined created a neutral) are placed next to each other they create “chromatic tension” and therefore vibrate off each other.
Another characteristic of Op art paintings is the lack of defined foreground and background. Visual effects make it difficult to decipher which parts of the painting are closer to the viewer and which are farther away. Often times the foreground and background seem to continuously switch roles.
Op art has its connections with Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, Kinetic art, Constructivism, and Minimalism. Today Op art is sometimes enhanced by technology and can be found in the work of fashion designers.
Precursors to Op Art
Some Op Artists
Sources and Images:
A bit of a warning, looking at images of Op art online can be quite strenuous on the eyes.