Celebrated as the father of Op Art (Optical Art), the Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely (1906–1997) is internationally renowned for his colourful abstract patterns and playful Pop aesthetic. Stimulating the eye, his vibrant paintings, prints and sculptures produce the optical illusion of dynamic movement: they appear to pulse, shimmer and vibrate. This exhibition showcases Vasarely’s artistic production primarily from the 1960s and ’70s, at the peak of his popularity.
With a background in graphic design, Vasarely was deeply invested in making art that could easily reach the broadest possible audience. To this end, he created his Plastic Alphabet, an abstract language that comprises a series of geometrical shapes in varying colours. Vasarely’s easily reproducible language could be applied in countless configurations across multiple media—and was ambitiously intended for the entire world to share.
The utopian nature of Vasarely’s vision can be found in his desire to take art beyond the gallery, and to make it accessible to people in their homes as well as in the public domain. Merging artworks and commercially printed multiples, his abstract language is featured not only in his paintings, sculptures and architectural integrations but also reproduced on prints, posters, dishware and textiles. Vasarely’s interest in the democratization of art for all, his use of mass production and his embracing of interdisciplinarity continue to resonate with artistic practices today.
A large number of the paintings, sculptures, tapestries and multiples shown in this exhibition come from the Simonyi Collection in Seattle. Its generous loans provide a rare opportunity to consider the breadth of Vasarely’s art of the 1960s and ’70s. Victor Vasarely was conceived in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery
David Calabrigo and Corinne Stavness
Patricia Charles Michael and Inna O'Brian