Victor Vasarely (French, 1908-1997)
Signed "Vasarely=" l.c., also signed, titled, inscribed "P.1153" and dated "1984"
on the reverse, Circle Fine Art Corporation label affixed to the reverse.
Acrylic on canvas, approximately 45 11/16 x 40 15/16 in. (116.0 x 104.0 cm), framed. Condition: Retouch.
Provenance: From the artist to Jack and Carolyn Solomon, Circle Gallery, Chicago, Illinois; Private collection, Massachusetts.
N.B. This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by Madame Michèle-Catherine Vasarely; certificate from Mme. Vasarely accompanies the lot. Victor Vasarely is widely considered a pioneer of Op Art. From a young age, Vasarely was fascinated with the natural and physical sciences. By his early 20s, his scientific interests took on a decidedly visual dimension. Deciding that the fields of quantum and astrophysics "had reached the limits of what could be explained and that art offered a way, through plastic equivalents, of making scientific models visually comprehensible," (1) Vasarely sought formal art training at the Muhely, a Bauhaus-influenced art and design school in Budapest. By the mid-1950s, like many Constructivist artists decades prior, Vasarely began to formalize his theories as manifestos. In "Manifeste Jaune," Vasarely first outlined his idea of "plastic kinetics" where movement in a painting "does not rely on composition nor a specific subject, but on the apprehension of the act of looking, which by itself is considered as the only creator." (2) In a later 1959 manifesto, Vasarely advanced his ideas on what he called 'plastic unity'- "…The format of any abstract composition is extensible-compressible, so that there are as many magnitudes as ideal distances between the eye and the work…form and color, two distinct notions in common language, become identified in plastic language: every form is a substratum for color, every color is the attribute of a form. But two "form-colors" are necessary in order to engender plastic unity….Every plastic form-color represents a measurable and objective physical constant, but its interpretation…will vary according to the degrees of the spectator's sensibility." (3) The word "korlat" translates roughly from Hungarian to English as "barrier," with architectural connotations (e.g. banister, balustrade, bar, handrail, parapet, rail). At first glance, the present work certainly recalls architecture-its grid suggesting post-and-lintel construction. On further inspection, however, the structure does not bear weight- the beams cast no shadows and appear to join at 90 degree angles to other beams that recede into space. The waffle-like structure appears to exist in three-dimensional space, yet it contradicts what we know of it from experience. In the way that the structure is centered within the mustard-yellow ground and 'pierced,' it is perhaps more accurate to say that it is weightless. Despite the puzzle presented in the intricacies of the grid itself, there is clarity to the structure overall-the grid presents a vertical or horizontal barrier to the viewer, depending on which position the viewer chooses. The "barrier" referred to in the title, then, can perhaps be understood as the mental obstructions and prejudices that viewers unconsciously bring to the act of looking.
1) Morgan, Robert C. Vasarely. New York: George Brasilier, Inc. 2004. Pg. 18.
2) Ibid., Pg. 30.
3) Vasarely. New York: Sidney Janis Gallery, 1966.
Retouch not visible under UV light, and appears to be contemporaneous to the painting.