For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Vega III by Victor Vasarely.
About the Work
Title: Vega III
Artist : Victor Vasarely
Year : 1957-59
Medium : oil on canvas
Dimensions : 51 1/8 x 76 5/8 x 1 3/4 inches (130 x 194.7 x 4.4 cm)
Location : Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Vega III easily identifies with the classic features of the Op Art movement and more specifically the work of Vasarely. Victor was a master at creating iconic visual effects, that would be in the viewing memory and always remembered in association with the movement. The distorted chequerboard pattern, created illusions of concave and convex shapes within the image surface itself. Also, Vega III is representative of the technical perfection that was synonymous with this artist, the stretched linear grid, the movement and depth these were all vital aspects that that established the tenets of Op Art.
This particular piece was important because through it, Vasarely was able to showcase his style where he was approximating the kinetic style, on a static two-dimensional canvas. The influences of Alexander Calder and Naum Gabo, clearly visible. The rotating mobiles of Calder and the revolving/vibrating sculptures of Gabo, through Kinetic Art had paved the way towards the portrayal of the passage of time and the element of space. Under these conditions, a Kinetic work which was immobile was an ingenious statement.
More popularly and academically, Vega III was clearly an enactment of Vasarely’s ideas from his Yellow Manifesto. For him “visual kinetics”, was inspired by Constructivism and the Bauhaus which used optical illusions to grab attention and kept it firmly on the act of viewing itself. This was a departure from previous movements in execution and style.
“Already in 1935 my graphic studies featured the first vibratory effects. However, I started consciously pursuing kinetic effects only around 1950. In the following years I have created those black and white, positive-negative works, that today become world fashion known as OP-ART i.e. optic art.”Victor Vasarely
During the period of 1950s-60s in different fields there was an exploration of the idea of inclusivity for the viewer. And it was a work like Vega III that could effortlessly pull the viewer in, simply by its own virtue. The renowned art historian József Sárkány, had commented that an artwork such as this “always give rise to new paintings”.
Vasarely’s work was truly pioneering when the century was moving towards the blurring of boundaries and his relevance in the age of social media, makes him all the more relevant.
To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the archive for Artwork in Focus.