Op Art at OSU: Richard Anuszkiewicz and Victor Vasarely

This essay was written by student lopeeta tawde while enrolled in Art Since 1960.

Various art movements emerged during the 1960s, the era of minimalism, postmodernism, the Black Arts movement, and the women’s liberation movement. “Optical Art,” more commonly known as “Op art,” was a style of painting that emerged during 1960’s and soon became popular in the United States. Op art, as its name suggests, has to do with vision. It is comprised of illusions created by playful compositions of lines, geometric shapes or different color schemes and patterns. Artists such as Richard Anuszkiewicz, Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, William Smith, and more created highly acclaimed Op artworks. In this essay, I compare the techniques and approaches of two OSUMA permanent collection artists, Richard Anuszkiewicz and Victor Vasarely.

Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) was a Hungarian-French painter and famous figure in the field of Op art. He discovered a new way of creating art through abstraction that was innovative in its use of color and optical illusion. He emphasized the idea more than the object or the materials used. His art work was comprised mainly of geometrical forms, organized flat with the standardized used of the colors to create the sense of visual illusion. He believed that form and color are inseparable. His works show that he used a variety of different media to achieve a sense of visual illusion that had a deep impact on architecture, computer science, fashion, and the way we now look at things in general.


Victor Vasarely (Hungarian-French, 1906-1997), “Vega Per,” oil on canvas, 1965.

Vasarely’s motto was “Art for all.” His 1965 painting, Vega Per, creates an unreal space through the use of vibrant color combinations and gradual change in the background color while the circles on the background are consistently red and green. When we look at the painting from different angles, it creates a sense of movement in the painting. [Editor’s note: a similar illusion of depth can be seen in the OSUMA screenprint by Vasarely, Test Tarka, of 1990. In his lucite sculpture, Tower, ca. 1980, which is also in our collection, Vasarely combined two-dimensional geometric designs into a three-dimensional form, adding complexity to his illusionism. Click on the links to read student essays about these works.] Vasarely’s paintings are approachable for all people, not just artists, because there is a kind of playfulness in his artwork.

Anuszkiewicz Inward Eye

Richard Anuszkiewicz, Untitled from the “Inward Eye” portfolio, 1970. Color screenprint, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

Richard Anuszkiewicz, an American artist from 1960’s was also known for creating Op art. His works are mainly comprised of lines drawn to achieve his desired visual effects, and he often chooses a palette of complementary colors. Inward Eye is a color screenprint made in 1970. Placement of lines is very important in this print; Anuszkiewicz has used concentric lines repetitively to create a sense of inward and outward movement. As in Vega Per, its effect changes when observed from different angles and sides. Like Vasarely’s prints and paintings, Inward Eye creates a three-dimensional surface on the two-dimensional paper, changing the background colors while keeping solid color for the foreground lines, thus creating a sense of illusion. Both artists concentrate on line work, technically strong composition of geometric forms, and movement created by a dramatic use of color. The use of color, especially vibrancy between the complementary colors, creates an illusion of movement. Focusing on physiological effects rather than representational symbolism, the two artists seem to share the ideology of making art available for all people.


About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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