Optical art uses optical illusion and is primarily abstract works of art. Some of the most well-known op art pieces use just black and white colors to portray a sense of movement in the images. The term op art was not used until 1964 when Time Magazine in an article that responded to Julian Stanozak's Optical Paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery, but op art can be traced back to the early days of Neo-impressionism, Cubism, and Constructivism. Op art is often said to have derived from the practices of the Bauhaus, a German school founded by Walter Gropius. The school was forced to close in 1933 and when it did many of the instructors fled to the United States. It was shortly after this time that the op art movement began to take shape in Chicago.
The most notable characteristics of op art is the use of optical illusions. The limitation of only using the black and white colors gives these types of work a distinct impression of movement, bending, warping or swelling in the patterns. It is also common for there to be hidden images in many optical artworks and can give off a flashing or vibration of patterns within the works. Op art can also create after images with viewers in certain colors. Where the edges of the black and white meet the eye can perceive colors since the creation of color relies on these two distinct lightnesses and darknesses.
One of the earliest painting the utilize op art was Victor Vasarely's Zebras painting in 1938. The painting was created in a curvilinear black and white stripe. This gave the unique impression that the lines not only melted into the background but also burst out from it.
Op art focuses on a perceptual experience, where it puts the foreground and backgrounds in a contradictory juxtaposition. Most op artist will create these types of artwork from one of two ways. One method creates an effect through patterns and lines and are strictly black and white. This is referred to as grisaille and is the most widely used method in op art. One of the most famous op art of this kind is from Bridget Riley with his painting Current which was completed in 1964.
In 1965, color had started to be used in art op, most notable from Bridget Riley, Julian Stanczak and Richard Anuszkiewicz. Contrasting colors were mainly used to add an additional element in these works which would create different effects on the eye. Color interaction in op art is classified in three ways; simultaneous contrast, successive contrast and reverse contrast. Simultaneous contrast involves one area of color being surrounded by another. Successive contrast involves one color being viewed and then another color is viewed. Reverse contrast is a spreading effect where one color appears to spread into another color or area.
Artists listed are closely associated with Op art although several of these artists are also associated with other art movements.