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What The Eyes See: The Magic of Op Art

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What The Eyes See: The Magic of Op Art

The exhibition CLE OP: Cleveland Op Art Pioneers opens on April 9 to celebrate the work of several Cleveland artists who contributed to the abstract art movement that surged in the 1960s. Op Art (short for optical art) applies the art of visual illusion and perception to dazzle the eye of visitors through unique compositions that combine bold colors, dynamic patterns, geometric shapes and lines. We recently engaged Cleveland ophthalmologist Richard Statesir (and longtime member) in a conversation about the science behind OpArt. Q: What do you believe is one of the attractions to Op Art? A: Op Art is very mathematically constructed. It is probably one of the purer applications of optics and physics in art. The design and construction of Op Art is very stimulating to the visual system. Q: What happens when people are viewing Op Art? A: It engages the visual system and the eyes through responses to light and dark. The retina of the eye is most sensitive to changes in illumination. In Op Art, artists often contrast light and dark images along a sharply delineated border. This border may be linear or geometric in its form. In some works the interpretive functions of the visual system are stimulated, and may allow the viewer to “fill in the edges" and see imagined figures and images. Q: What happens when people are viewing art in general?The eyes are the camera part of our visual system. Information travels to the back of the brain, reaching the occipital cortex. Here, the information is processed and sent to the associative areas of the brain, where the visual information is interpreted in light of our life experiences and emotions. In this way a positive or negative reaction to the visual image is generated, often striking a chord within the viewer.

Untitled, 1967–68. Ernest Benkert

Untitled, 1967–68. Ernest Benkert

-- Kesha Williams  

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