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In the "temple paintings" by Anuszkiewicz, for example, a sense of depth is elicited by the utilization of two contrasting colors. Looking at these works, we are under the impression that we are looking at something in three dimensions. It is almost as though an architectural work is invading the space in which we view the picture.
Stanczak went even further in his pictorial compositions with color. As a matter of fact, it could be said that Stanczak's oeuvre is based on an intense examination of the way that colors function when they are put together. In the words of Rand,
Stanczak created various spatial experiences with color and geometry; the latter is far easier to discuss. Color has no simple systematized equivalent. Indeed, there may be no way to describe it that is both meaningful and accurate. Descriptions of it (the color wheel or color solids, for example) are all necessary distortions. While color derives from the electromagnetic scale that corresponds to the magnitudes of energy expressed by musical pitch, in fact, the neurological occidentals by which we experience color make it seem multidimensional, while musical pitch (not timbre, volume, or duration) is experienced as a linear relationship... [the artist's] gift is for layering. He arranges transparent patterns upon patterns so that you see through them as gauziest screens, each one seeming to fold as if it moves (Rand 40 and 42).
The work of Ratliff (1996) on color theory is also useful to consider when analyzing op art. Ratliff contends that there are three main classes of color interaction - simultaneous contrast, successive contrast, and reverse contrast (also known as assimilation.) Simultaneous contrast occurs when one patch of color is surrounded by another color. Successive contrast takes place when one color is viewed, followed by another. This usually occurs when we are led to fix our eye on one color, then replacing that color with another. In the final form of contrast - assimilation - the lightness of white or darkness of black appears to spread into other regions of the canvas. This effect tends to make neighboring areas look more alike, rather than enhancing their differences.
Whereas op art seems to be most popular in painting, there are some artists who have tried to recreate the effects of op art through the photographic medium. This has proven to be an immensely difficult challenge over the years, however, as there seems to be a lack of appropriate op subject matter in the photographic realm. Op art also requires that the image be rather extreme in its illusionist qualities - something that photographers are rarely interested in doing. One of the few artists who tried to recreate op art effects in photography was Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Moholy-Nagy was also affiliated with the Bauhaus movement, and even taught courses on op art in photography for the Bauhaus. In one of his lessons, he required his students to punch holes in cards and then photograph them. This is one of the rare historical examples of op art in photography. Another, contemporary photographer, Noorali Hirani, currently produces photographic op art by employing many of Moholy-Nagy's principles.
From its humble origins as an off-shoot of the influential Bauhaus movement, the popularity of op art endures to this day. Bridget Riley, one of the leading artists behind the original movement, continues to create paintings that are popular not only in the art world, but with the public at large, as well. The work of Stanczak can be found in permanent museum collections all over the United States, as well as his native Poland. Anuskiewicz is considered to be a major painter of our era; a catalogue raisonee of his paintings is due to be published sometime in the coming year. Op art exhibitions continue to be organized throughout the United States and abroad, attesting to the movement's enduring popularity.
Rand, Harry. 1990. Julian Stanczak: Decades of Light. Buffalo: State University of New York.
Ratliff, Floyd. 1996. The Theory of Color and the Practice of Painting. Color Function Painting:
The Art of Josef Albers, Julian Stanczak and…[continue]
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