“With the detachment from the figurative we have disconnected from the anecdotal: pure plasticity breaks from what is literal. An approach to the mathematical sciences emerges [...].” – Victor Vasarely
Victor Vasarely (1908–1997) is one of the main exponents of op art.
His interest in abstract shapes began during his youth when he saw the geometrically malformed tiles in the subway stations of Budapest and was able to imagine movement forwards and backwards in the cracks and tears in the tiles. This anecdote defines what sets Vasarely’s artworks apart: he is able to optically break up the two-dimensional aspect of the canvas and the paper by lining up color surfaces. The pieces develop differently in the eye of the observer depending on the perspective they are viewed from. Optical illusions are created, like individual color surfaces appearing to rotate or vibrate, as well as an impression of three-dimensionality.
In his Yellow Manifesto Vasarely formulated his demand for artworks as prototypes. According to this manifesto, artwork should be created out of repeatable shapes to make it possible to duplicate. This explains Vasarely’s work on tile designs and reliefs for public buildings, for example. He sees his surfaces as theoretically endless patterns/ornaments.
Vasarely took part in documenta I–IV and was distinguished with art prizes and honors very early on, including the Guggenheim Prize in 1964 and his appointment as Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris in 1965.
His works can be found in all of the world’s most important museums, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York or Bilbao. Various museums dedicated to his body of work have also been opened, including in Aix-en-Provence and in the artist’s home city of Pécs.