Published on 03/03/2019
Considered the father of optical art, figure of the 60s and 70s, the Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely (Pecs 1906 - Paris 1997) was a fervent advocate of art for all. The colorful and geometric images of his works, which play on the illusion, have been imposed in everyday life for two decades. Painting, book covers, albums (including David Bowie’s Space Oddity) TV sets, objects, logo (Renault), architecture, fashion, or magazines, Vasarely is everywhere ... until the overdose at the end of the years 70.
More or less forgotten, or discredited, at the end of the last century, he is now rehabilitated, inspires artists of the new generation, and is highlighted with this first major retrospective at the Center Pompidou.
Victor Vasarely was formed in Budapest. Student of Sandor Bortnyik, his first works are in the continuity of the Bauhaus spirit. When he arrived in Paris at the age of 24, he started as a graphic designer in advertising agencies. His style, his "optical" touch, are already installed in his first works such Zebras of 1938 or The Whale and the Watter Drop, beautiful.
The revelation comes when he is on Belle-Isle-en-Mer, during a stay in 1947, on a pebble beach. Inspiration ... the shapes of the pebbles, the rhythm of the waves, the shape of the clouds ... everything is united by the same shapes and the same forces. There, he invents his geometry of the real. He consolidates it in Gordes, with the shape of the houses, the carved fields of lavender ... Gordes, Luberon, Santorini, the works are geometric, colorful ...
But his touch, the event, are his black and white canvases of the early 50s. Optics, geometric, kinetic and mobile, it is the birth of the optical art, the Op art, and the revolution of the geometric abstraction. Vasarely is interested in the perception of forms, not just shapes. Each painting is stunning and disturbing, interesting both in its entirety and in every detail. The execution is bluffing, like the paintings of the following years besides. The positive and the negative are reversible, a deployment of waves is executed on the surface of the painting, the form changes, never stabilizes, stuns, then swells, sinks ... A mixture of poetry and science transpires of these black and white works such as Vega and Tlinko in 1956, or Naissances in 1958.
Note also the very interesting tribute to Malevich (1954-1958), a double negative-positive picture in which the moving square deforms, becomes rhombus, and seems to open like a door. A favorite.
In the early 1960s, Vasarely returned to color, and developed a plastic alphabet based on geometric shapes and color, a vocabulary of its own and that allows him all geometric expressions, a universal language based on a system of colored squares in which shapes and colors are then embedded, deformed and connected to give gradient and relief effects. An almost infinite number of combinations is allowed. A chiaroscuro of a new kind springs from this language. In all directions of the grid, the darkening or lightening of hues follows a perfectly predictable and measurable progression. The works, between science and fiction, which arise from them bear cosmic names: Vega Nor in 1969, Vega 200 in 1968, Tridim, Vonal ... The effect is striking, astonishing, from near and far ...
The Center Pompidou's exhibition is very well structured, very well documented, and the scenography is perfectly adapted to the eclectic and technophile side of the artist. The visit is even more interesting as it is chronological, which allows the art lover to follow the evolution and progress of the work of Vasarely. A must see.
Centre Pompidou, until May 6, 2019
Centre Pompidou - "Sharing Forms"
Fondation Vasarely in Aix en Provence
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