JANUARY 22 – MAY 12, 2013

During the 1960s, Op artists burst on the scene with optically-based, hard edge, black-and-white, color, and kinetic abstractions that seem to generate light, energy, and space. Op artists were interested in creating new forms of art that stimulate those retinal and psychological receptors that generate the images our mind perceives. Op artists favored flat areas of pigment that seem applied as if by machine, without the distracting brushstrokes. They frequently employed squares, grids, targets, and diagrammatic, or all-over compositional formats.

Vibrations presents a dazzling selection of 23 works from the permanent collections in which artists explore the nature of visual perception. Op artists represented in the exhibition include Bridget Riley, whose black-and-white lines and patterns seem to vibrate and fold; and Victor Vasarely, whose glowing, pulsating geometric images seem to map new spatial dimensions. Additional works from this dynamic international movement include a lenticular print by Yaacov Agam; a screenprint of diaphanous veils of line that generate moiré patterns by Carlos Cruz-Diez; a string composition by Sue Fuller; and a nine-square mandala color etching of alternating color blocks and fine lines by Jesús Rafael Soto.

The exhibition also includes several works by artists who are not often considered in relationship to Op Art. Pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Bill Komodore used halftone dot patterns, and Peter Phillips employed line and sizzling color in ways that are interesting to compare with their optically-oriented contemporaries. Linear compositions and grids by Minimalists Alex Hay, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Serra are fascinating to compare to the use of line in Op Art. The exhibition also presents images of precursor Marcel Duchamp’s experimental optical artworks, called rotodiscs, from the 1920s and ‘30s; as well as hard edge color abstractions by Herbert Bayer and Ilya Bolotowsky; and a sparkling black-and-white etching by Chuck Close.

Vibrations is organized by Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings. Support is generously provided by the Des Moines Art Center Print Club.

Victor Vasarely (French, 1906 or 1908–1997)
Ond JG, 1969
Screenprint on paper, 23 3/8 x 23 3/8 inches
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections;
Gift of Wells Fargo & Company, 2003.301

entirely unexpected