What to Buy from Paris, Then and Now
The authenticity of the present work has been confirmed by Pierre Vasarely, President of the Fondation Vasarely, universal legatee and the moral right holder of Victor Vasarely. This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné de l'Oeuvre Peint de Victor Vasarely, which is currently being compiled by the Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en-Provence.
According to Pierre Vasarely, this work was conceived between 1940 and 1980, and executed circa 1988.
Now widely recognized as one of the pioneers of the 'Op Art' movement, Victor Vasarely first developed what he termed 'Optical Kinetism' in his studies of Checkerboards, Harlequins, Zebras, Tigers, Prisoners and Martians as early as the 1930's. Within the parameters of these recognizable subjects, the artist developed his trademark contrasting shapes and patterns depicted in dizzying waves and undulations that created a jarring and instant impression of movement within the eyes of the viewer. Critical to the artist during this period was the "aggressiveness with which [the subjects'] structures struck the retina." This visual language of sharply contrasting forms and patterns devoid of shadow and tone was a metaphorical quest: "I am opting for a world-view according to which 'good and evil,' 'beautiful and ugly' and 'physical and psychological' are inseparable, complimentary opposites, two sides of the same coin…. Therefore black and white means to transmit and propagate messages more effectively, to inform, to give."
Some thirty years later, Vasarely's work was included along with over 100 other artists in the expansive 1965 exhibition, "The Responsive Eye," at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The show included works by dozens of emerging artists such as Yaacov Agam, Bridget Riley and Frank Stella, alongside established figures like Josef Albers, Wojciech Fangor, Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly. The show cast international attention upon opticality and kinetism and made 'Optical Art' the first broadly recognized art movement to follow World War II. Vasarely is now widely credited with being one of the earliest to develop this movement that has so influenced contemporary art into the 21st Century.
The present work, conceived as early as 1940, is squarely placed in the artist's early years of 'Optical Kinetism' in its composition, yet with its green background, hints at the colorful abstractions of the 1950's forward. The overlapping and intertwined forms create a tangle of dizzying pattern and stripes that create a classic Op-Art tension between black and white, stability and motion, figuration and abstraction. Even though this work was executed many years after its initial conception, it retains and reflects many of the central tenets of Vasarely's early black and white paintings. "Zepar" has been in the same private collection for nearly three decades, and is only the second oil on canvas of this subject to appear at auction in at least the last twenty years.—Courtesy of Freeman's
Signature: Signed bottom right, signed again, titled twice, inscribed 'P. 1270 Vasarely' and 'No. 1233,' and dated 1940-1980 verso
Private Collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Considered one of the progenitors of Op Art for his optically complex and illusionistic paintings, Victor Vasarely spent the course of a long, critically acclaimed career seeking, and arguing for, an approach to art making that was deeply social. He placed primary importance on the development of an engaging, accessible visual language that could be universally understood—this language, for Vasarely, was geometric abstraction, more commonly known as Op Art. Through precise combinations of lines, geometric shapes, colors, and shading, he created eye-popping paintings, full of the illusion of depth, movement, and three-dimensionality. More than pleasing tricks for the eye, Vasarely insisted, “pure form and pure color can signify the world.”
Hungarian-French, 1906-1997, Pécs, Hungary, based in Paris, France
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