Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Op Art, the international art movement that used optical illusions and geometric patterns to produce effects that both confuse and stimulate the eye. The movement was first formally recognised after New York’s MOMA presented the seminal show “The Responsive Eye” in 1965. The eye-catching, imaginative and vertigo-inducing paintings and sculptures swept the art world and enamoured viewers and the media.
The incorporation of the viewer himself as a key component of the work, and the straightforward unpretentious representations, made the art inclusive, a universal language of optimism that could reach all. Such ideas brewed deeply in Latin America and since the 1930’s diverse currents of geometric abstraction were developed by artists, particularly from Argentina and Venezuela. Fuelled by optimism and idealist notions of progress, South American artists looked to change the world through reason and order.
After an amazing run, the reception of Op Art started to decline and conceptual art became the next “big thing”. However, the strength of its philosophical ideals would ensure the movement’s lasting legacy and current revival. Over the last two decades, the development of Geometric Abstraction and Op Art, including the importance of South American artists in its development, has been the subject of a myriad of exhibitions around the world. These exhibitions re-establish the enormous influence of the great artists from the 20th century but also open the door to reevaluate the relevance of the movement to young contemporary artists and for society in the 21st century.
Adriana Alvarez-Nichol, founder of Puerta Roja and curator of the show states: “Technology and modern materials have undoubtedly opened new paths for contemporary artists to explore new variations of colour theory and optical illusion. Most importantly however, is that the essence and profound undercurrent of optimism and democratisation of art is more important than ever. Amidst our present troubled era, experimenting with illusion is not a sign of denial but one of hope for the future.”
The exhibition Sensorial Geometries, From Argentina to the World presents the work of four Argentinean artists exploring the universal language of geometric and optical expressions, each with a very individual and personal perspective. The exhibition contrasts the work of 20th century master Luis Tomasello, where economised and minimalist structures are filled with the vibrations of light, with the exuberant and colour saturated paintings by young talent Mariano Ferrante. Antonio Asís works dazzle and almost confuse with psychedelic intensity, despite the inherent simplicity of the execution. Ventoso, a new artist to Puerta Roja exhibiting for the first time in Asia, furthers Tomasello’ s three-dimensionality and Asís’ optimal illusions by presenting a unique language of sculptural and tactile polymer constructions or “assemblages” that tease and defy the perceptions of the viewer.
The works of these four artists, masters and emerging talent, will create a myriad of sensorial emotions and a memorable sense of belonging, of personal relevance in the viewer. Such were the ideals of the artistic movement from the 1960’s that remain just as, or more, relevant today.