Victor Vasarely | Op Art in Vancouver | Uncommon Language
Victor Vasarely, Oerveng, 1968, tempera on wood composite board. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Gift of the Estate of Kathleen E. Reif. © Estate of Victor Vasarely / SOCAN (2020). Photo: Ian Lefebvre, Vancouver Art Gallery.

Victor Vasarely | Op Art in Vancouver | Uncommon Language

Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC - To April 5, 2021

by Michael Turner

Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) was a leading figure in the global Op Art movement. Though Op (short for “Optical”) has its roots in the late-19th-century Neo-Impressionist paintings of Georges Seurat, it received periodic waterings from artists associated with subsequent movements (Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism and Dada) before achieving full bloom in the 1960s, most notably through the black-and-white boards of Britain’s Bridget Riley, who, like Vasarely, had worked in design.

Vasarely believed art should be accessible to everyone, and that the shared sensations evoked by Op Art constituted a universal aesthetic language. Over the course of his career he explored a range of media – from painting, sculpture and architectural design to posters, dishware and textiles – and his influence was felt far and wide. Displayed alongside Vasarely’s works are those of notable Vancouver Op-inspired artists Joan Balzar, Brian Fisher, Michael Morris, Bodo Pfiefer, Gordon Smith and Takao Tanabe.

In response to this at-times dizzying exhibition (the Vasarely component was conceived in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris), the VAG has composed from its collection a parallel show that casts a confounding, if not critical, eye at Vasarely’s utopian tendencies. Artists include Josef Albers, Sonny Assu, Vija Celmins, Allyson Clay, Andrew Dadson, Beau Dick, General Idea, Jean Goguen, Betty Goodwin, Angela Grauerholz, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Allison Hrabluik, Robert Indiana, Mary Kelly, Ann Kipling, Lui Shou Kwan, Ken Lum, Agnes Martin, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, Françoise Sullivan, Takao Tanabe, Cy Twombly, Rachel Whiteread, Joyce Wieland, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and Zhu Jinshi, as well as invited artists Karin Jones and Zoe Kreye.

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