Vasarely in black and white

Vasarely in black and white

09/28/2020

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Vasarely in black and white, return on his work Bi-Forme du Centre Pompidou


Victor Vasarely (1906-1997), a French artist of Hungarian origin, is considered the father of optical art (Op Art). After the discovery of abstract art and the Russian Constructivists and a teaching at the Bauhaus, he wanted to create, during his career, an art accessible and within everyone's reach by using ingenuity in his production and distribution methods.

In 1955, Vasarely wrote his Yellow Manifesto and thus marked the official act of the birth of kineticism. He wrote this manifesto on the occasion of the famous exhibition "Le Mouvement" at the Galerie Denise René, which was his very first exhibition. This manifesto establishes the integration of movement through the stimulation of the spectator and the manipulation of the object. Kinetic art, to use the term used in 1955 by Vasarely, followed by developments in op'art, would establish itself for fifteen years as one of the major trends in international contemporary art. This art questioned the vibration, the virtual color, all that in the fixed image solicited the optical nerve or on the contrary introduced by the real movement a dimension of duration which modified the approach of the visual arts.

From the 1950s onwards, Vasarely's abstraction was reduced to black and white. This is notably the case in the 1962 work Bi-Forme, now in the Centre Pompidou. This sculpture, made of engraved and superimposed Saint-Gobain glass panels, takes all its theoretical dimension from the Yellow Manifesto. By using black and white, geometry and space, Vasarely was able to create a dynamic and kinetic work that can be appropriated by the viewer. The effect sought with this work is defined on the mobility and vision of the viewer.
According to the Yellow Manifesto, the integration of movement is not through the manipulation of the object but through the stimulation of the spectator. This conception is translated here by the retinal dynamism of black and white. For Vasarely this work "will become the diffusable, optimal and optimistic plastic work, a true common treasure". Vasarely's goal is therefore to gather a considerable number of spectators around this work in order to transmit a message receivable by everyone. There is therefore as many views of the work as there are spectators and different points of view to observe it.
With this sculpture, the artist takes a step towards three-dimensionality by exploding the flatness to which he was rather accustomed. He explores the variations of shapes, because just as chromatic nuances can vary, shapes can be seen from different angles. These optical illusions, close to a trompe-l'oeil, force the viewer into an illusion far removed from reality. The sensation of disorder is thus offered by these contrasting and vibrant patterns offering an art of pure sensation. The possibilities of combinations between the forms and the bichromatism of the sculpture are almost infinite. The movement in Bi-Forme is induced without the need to provoke it. The forms seem to scroll before our eyes. The work thus functions as a moving screen that occupies and animates a volumetric space filled with spectators.
 Vasarely, text from 1967, reprinted in Notes brutes, p.90

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