Victor Vasarely (1996 - 1997)

VICTOR VASARELY is a unique artist in the history of twentieth century art. Famous during his lifetime, he distinguished himself from contemporary art with the creation of a new movement: optical art. The evolution of his life of work is inherently coherent, progressing from graphic art to the artist’s determination to promote a social art that is accessible to all.

Victor Vasarely was born in Pécs, Hungary in 1906. In 1925, after graduating from secondary school, he studied medicine briefly at the University of Budapest. Even though he did not pursue these medical studies past two years, Vasarely acquired a commitment to method, objectivity, science and the thirst for knowledge which would follow him all throughout his life.

In 1955, the focus at the Galerie Denise René in Paris is on kinetic art. Vasarely and other artists such as Duchamp, Man Ray, Calder, Tinguely and Agam, exhibit their works on the theme of movement. The same year Vasarely publishes his “Manifeste Jaune” which outlines the concept of “kinetic plasticity”. In doing so, he renews not only with the research of constructivist pioneers, but also with Bauhaus teachings. The movement does not adhere to the idea of “compositions” or “subjects”, but more to idea that the viewer is in fact the one unique artist. Optical illusions are made from the plastic unity of two shapes of contrasting colors. Until 1960, the only colors used are black and white. When motion transforms these plastic shapes, the dimensions of movement and space come to life.

In 1965, Vasarely participated in the “Responsive Eye” exhibition dedicated to Optical Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The idea behind this initiative is the “suggestion” of movement without the actual movement. It establishes a new relationship between artwork and its viewer by provoking the latter’s active participation. The viewer is free to interpret the image in as many visual contexts as he may see fit. Following the success of this new trend, the press and enthusiasts baptize Vasarely the inventor of “optical art”.

In 1968, playing with the distortion of lines, Vasarely defined his “universal structures” and enlisted in the popular “Vega” period in which the swelling caused by the deformation of elements results in forms that appear to bulge out from the piece and create spectacular volumes.

Fondation Vasarely

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Steven Graven

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Modern & Contemporary Art

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