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Op Art and Kinetic Art 1950-1970

4.2.2016 - 5.6.2016

With the first major presentation of Op Art and Kinetic Art in Scandinavia for more than 50 years, Louisiana opened the door to a visual experimental laboratory with the whole range of media and techniques.

Op Art is an abbreviation of Optical Art and describes works which use ingeniously crafted optical illusions and effects that go straight to the core of our visual sensory apparatus. The movement had its inception in the middle of the 1950s and its glory days in the 1960s, when it established itself internationally across political and cultural contexts. The artists were preoccupied with science, the psychology of perception and the new technology of the time – and turned their backs on old-fashioned storytelling and romantic sensitivity.

A dynamic sensing of the world is also the essence in the so-called Kinetic Art, which broadly describes works of art with incorporated movement, whether literally or as an illusion. Optical and Kinetic Art developed hand in hand in an abstract, geometrical language of form, using new industrial materials and techniques, and shared a strong interest for the anti-static and the direct sensory experience.

While Kinetic and Optical Art originate from a particular time, the results are surprisingly timeless, and the movement has left striking marks in contemporary visual art and culture. The direct appeal to the senses is unabated – and is effective today in a mixture of instant fascination and nostalgia.

With around 100 works and more than 40 artists, including Hungarian Victor Vasarely and English Bridget Riley in two of the main roles, the exhibition opened the door to a visual experimental laboratory with the whole range of media and techniques.

Knud Højgaards Fond and Beckett-Fonden support the Eye Attack exhibition.


The artists working with Op Art and kinetic art were inspired by the technological advances of the epoch and its 'cool' industrial materials and aesthetic. The movement intended to put art 'in synch' with the modern age and make it accessible for all across nationalities and social boundaries. Therefore you do not find a specific content or message in the artists' works, the important thing was that they should be experienced immediately and without previous knowledge: a desire to democratize art.


Although Eye Attack presented works by more than 40 artists, two artists were highly influential for Op Art and therefore British Bridget Riley (b. 1931) and Hungarian Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) also took up a prominent position in the exhibition.

Bridget Riley, which was present at the opening of the exhibition, is a central figure in the perceptual art of the 1960s, not least because of her black and white paintings created between 1961 and 1967 that today stands as icons for the Op Art movement.

Structured with clinical exactness, Bridget Rileys paintings affects the optic nerve in a direct way and forces the eyes and thus the brain on extreme overtime in the optical play of stability/instability and surface/space. The works make us experience phenomena that are not there, but arise as derivative effects in the brains processing of the visual impression, for example, rhythmically throbbing movements and phantom colous between the black lines.

Victor Vasarely is often named “the father of Op Art. From the early 1950s he developed his abstract imagery, which he defined as plastic and kinetic. Furthermore he included colors in his almost scientific exploration of optic illusions of movements and spatiality in the surface.