IN THE CATCH OF MOVEMENT: VICTOR VASARELY

When talking about Op Art one wonders what a difference makes concerning plastic geometry or abstraction based on forms. Investigating optical art means going a step further and understanding its location within the artistic coordinates of the mid-20th-century. In this style, there is, in fact, colour, form and abstraction, but its vocation towards the representation of the movement separates it from pure static figuration and absolute formalism. The works of this pictorial movement hide a double face that only the spectator can discover. In effect, they seem to move when the spectator himself moves.

Vasarely in his working desk, Annet-sur-Marne, 1964 (detail) ©Robert Doisneau

Vasarely was a fundamental character in the configuration of this creative trend, which emerged almost as a natural evolution of the movements of the early 20th century, in a postmodernist stage obsessed with fungibility, the representation of the movement and the impact of new techniques and images in the world of cinema and photography. And one of the main challenges of these creators was the generation of movement on flat works. It is here when visual games enter the scene and do so based on geometry and colour.

Victor Vasarely, "Marsan-2", 1964-1974 (detail), acrylic on canvas, Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest

In the mid-60s, the Hungarian Vasarely let his imagination run wild, fueled by the trends and the artistic atmosphere of Paris, the city where he settled down from an early age, to host that strange combination of lines and curves that are also characteristic of the era in artworks of great visual impact. The false volumes, the spheres in apparent perspective, the patterns with unreal folds... configured a catalogue of today emblematic images.

Victor Vasarely, "Doupla", 1970-1975, acrylic on canvas, Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest

Although Op Art it was an ephemeral movement, like many others that happened in the condensed and productive period of the beginning of the century, its legacy is still present. The beginning can be identified with the opening of the exhibition "Le mouvement" in the Paris gallery Denise René, in 1955, a space that always fostered the avant-garde of the moment. The set of pieces gathered for the occasion gave name to the movement of kinetic art, in which Op Art can be considered included. The visual representation of dynamism, of change, of movement, in short, led these artists to explore and expand the possibilities of traditional forms in both painting and sculpture.

Victor Vasarely, "Gixeh II", 1955-1962 (detail), oil on canvas. Szépmúveszéti Múzeum, Budapest

Vasarely trained as a graphic designer, studies that have left a clear imprint on his work. His choice of shapes and colours at the top of his artistic production is always clean and flat. Although the interest to investigate in the expressive potential of the linear and contrasted drawing began time ago, it is from mid-50’s when his style defines and consolidates, giving rise to some of the most paradigmatic works of this movement.

The Thyssen Museum dedicates to this artist the exhibition "The Birth of Op Art", which will be open until the 9th of September. A unique opportunity to approach this creator and know in-deep his career.

 

The CEART opens this Thursday, November 14th in the room A an exhibition dedicated to this master of photography, which will be open to the public until February 9th. The show includes one of the artist's latest projects, focused on the hard work carried out by the miners of Serra Pelada, an open gold mine in the heart of Brazil where employees daily risked their lives.

Immigration, poverty, marginal life, slave labour, man's relationship with the land, the use of natural resources... are issues that have always fascinated Salgado. From the beginning of his career as a photographer, his work has opted to give visibility to the most disadvantaged groups and to create with his images a vivid and impressive visual story without fakes. With a raw black and white, this author's work transits between photo-reportage and naturalistic photography.

And the idea that permeates all his work is human dignity. Salgado portrays employees, miners and gatherers from a purely humanistic approach that wants to value their integrity, their strength and their resilience.

“If you photograph a human, so that he is not represented in a noble way, there is no reason to take the picture. That is my way of seeing things.”

Salgado entered this discipline long after completing his studies in economics between Brazil and the United States, and a doctorate in statistics in France. But in 1973 his life took a turn, and he decided to start his career as a photographer. He achieved to work at the Gamma Agency and Magnum Photos for more than 15 years until in 1994 he founded his own agency “Amazonas Imagen”.

With the “Gold” project, the photographer portrays a harsh reality that takes place in the Serra Pelada mine, a name given to a totally devastated and anarchically excavated mining enclave, the world's largest open-pit gold mine, through which more than 50,000 people have passed. In the heat of the legends about the mysterious “El Dorado”, the enthusiasm for this precious metal led to the development of strenuous exploitation practices for the workers and to originate tales of grief and glory, of human victory and defeat between the soil, the tunnels and the cargo baskets.

The CEART exhibition brings together Salgado's full portfolio in his characteristical black and white and large-format photographs that leave no one indifferent.