Master of illusions

(First published in the December 13, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Woodson Art Museum’s exhibit demands double-takes



The vivid, boldly colorful, geometric art of Victor Vasarely needs to be seen in person to get the full effect of his three-dimensional experiences via two dimensional art. Known as the father of the Op Art movement, the Hungarian-French artist use the physics of visual perception to create a sense of movement and spatial depth in his art.

The Woodson Art Museum is hosting the traveling exhibition Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master, which includes more than 150 of Vasarely’s serigraphs, lithographs, gouache paintings and drawings from the collection of Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece.

Vasarely’s groundbreaking use of optical illusions as seen in this exhibit created one of the most important art movements in the 20th century, as Op Art became popular in the 1960s and 70s and permeated everyday life through design, advertisements, and architecture.

Vasarely’s explorations of visual perception and spatial relationships are still a source of inspiration for those interested in art, computer programming and architecture today.

The majority of the pieces in this exhibit are serigraphs, or printed designs, that feature optical deception and trickery fashioned by color, backgrounds, geometric combinations, perspective and distorted grids.

His work makes a strong impact the minute you walk through the door with vibrant colors and repetitive patterns that often appear to swell, retreat and ripple off the paper.

Works like “Vega I” and “Okta-Pos” both appear to bulge out towards you while other pieces such as “Vertche II” and “Pictor” appear to be moving into the wall behind the frame. Some works, such as “Tupa 2” require a double take: You look at it one way and the image appears to be moving inwards; you blink and then it’s moving outwards.

Most pieces show repeating shapes and patterns in varying sizes and perspectives, but a few feature animals, such as “Zebras” and “Tigres.” Vasarely was able to create animal-shapes using lines of varying thickness and colors, making a funky and different perspective.

Experimenting with color palettes to create a sense of depth and dimension, some of Vasarely’s work use bold monochromatic color schemes. Others use intense complementary colors, such as the reds and greens in “Vega-Fel-VR.” And some employ lively analogous colors, like blues, greens and purples.

Even the seemingly simple black and white pieces produce a three-dimensional effect, proving that Vasarely’s art does not need to be overly-complicated to achieve his signature Op Art feel.

His art leaves a lasting impression, with its play on perspective and depth. The bold and bright colors make the works fun, funky and a little psychedelic. Trust me, it needs to be seen in person.

Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master is on view thru Feb. 24. Museum hours: Tues.–Fri. 9 am–4 pm, Sat.–Sun. noon–5 pm; open until 7:30 pm on the first Thursday of each month. Closed Mondays and holidays. 715-845-7010,