(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Op Art

“Whatever is a reality today… is going to be, like the reality of yesterday, an illusion tomorrow”*…


Marina Apollonio. Spazio Ad Attivazione Cinetica 6B, 1966-2015. El Museo del Barrio

Artists, like neuroscientists, are masters of visual systems. Through experimentation and observation, artists have developed innovative methods for fooling the eye, enabling flat canvases to appear three-dimensional, for instance. Neuroscience—and more recently the subfield of neuroaesthetics—can help to explain the biology behind these visual tricks, many of which were first discovered by artists. “I often go to art to figure out questions to ask about science,” says Margaret Livingstone, Takeda Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. “Artists may not study the neuroscience per se, but they’re experimentalists.”

During the 1960s, Op Art—short for “Optical art”—combined the two disciplines by challenging the role of illusion in art. While earlier painters had created the illusion of depth where there was none, Op artists developed visual effects that called attention to the distortions at play. Abstract and geometric, their works relied upon the mechanics of the spectator’s eye to warp their compositions into shimmering and shifting displays of line and color. The Museum of Modern Art announced this international artistic trend in 1965 in a seminal exhibition titled “The Responsive Eye.” Since then, neuroscientists have continued to probe the mechanisms by which the human eye responds to these mind-bending works…

More on this intersection of art and science at “The Neuroscience of Op Art.” (And click here for a re-visit to Victor Vasarely, one of the fathers of Op Art.)

* Luigi Pirandello


As we cross our eyes, we might spare a thought for Leon Botha; he died on this date in 2011, at the age of 26.  An important South African painter and DJ, Botha was one of the world’s oldest survivors of progeria.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The basic principle of miniatures is always clear: it is that time in making commands time in looking”*…


A portrait of Queen Elizabeth, carved on a speck of gold, framed in the eye of a needle

Graham Short, a British micro-engraver, works in miniature… extreme miniature.  In addition to the portrait of the Queen (completed to celebrate her 90th birthday on April 21), above…

Short has also inscribed a quote from Abraham Lincoln on the tip of a Civil War bullet, one from Rosa Parks on the rim of a commemorative medal, and one from Steve Jobs on a gold microchip the size of a fingertip. The piece that gave him the most battle scars are the words “Nothing is Impossible”, which he scratched along the business edge of a razor blade. He used another razor edge as a canvas for a depiction of The Last Supper

da Vinci’s The Last Supper, engraved along the edge of a razor blade

More on Short’s painstaking technique– and more examples of his work– at “Inside the studio of the ‘micro-engraver’ who works between heartbeats to keep his hand steady.”

* Robert Hughes, Time,  Jan. 28, 1980


As we get small, we might send striking birthday greetings to Victor Vasarely; he was born on this date in 1906.  Vasarely attended medical school in Hungary before giving it up to study academic painting in Paris, where he became an advertising and graphic designer, painting on the side.  His 1937 painting, Zebra, is considered one of the earliest (if not indeed the earliest) example of Op Art— a movement of which he is widely accepted as both “grandfather” and leader.

Vasarely’s Zebra



Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

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