The Atkinson Museum opens its doors for the first time with an exhibition of Optical and Kinetic Art titled The Dynamic Eye. Organized in cooperation with Tate, it showcases some of the brightest and most important Op and Kinetic Art works ever made.
Here are 9 pieces you cannot miss!
1 – Zobop, by Jim Lambie
Zobop, created by Jim Lambie, is a mesmerizing installation that immediately captures the attention of viewers. The work is composed of a series of brightly coloured vinyl strips arranged in a dizzying, geometric pattern on the floor, creating an immersive and disorienting environment. The bold, vibrant colours and intricate pattern of the piece are visually stimulating and playful, inviting visitors to interact with the space by walking through it.
Jim Lambie is a Scottish artist known for his dynamic and immersive installations that often incorporate everyday materials like tape, mirrors, and record covers. He draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including popular culture, art history and music. Zobop is a perfect example of Lambie’s ability to transform mundane material into a visually stunning and thought-provoking work of art.
2 – Supernovae, by Victor Vasarely
Supernovae is a striking and intricate piece by Victor Vasarely, one of the most influential figures in the Op Art movement. The work is formed of 1,161 small black squares, set inside a thin white vertical grid, that seem to pulsate and shift as the viewer moves in front of them. The geometric precision and optical effects of the work create a sense of dynamism and movement, drawing the viewer in and encouraging them to engage with the piece.
Vasarely was a Hungarian-French artist whose work was instrumental in the development of Op Art. He was particularly interested in the ways in which geometric shapes and optical illusions could create visual movement and depth, and he often used bright colours and complex patterns to enhance these effects.
3 – Sphère Bleue, by Julio Le Parc
Sphère Bleue, created by Julio Le Parc, is a captivating example of the continuing legacy of Op Art, and showcases the artist’s skill in manipulating light and colour to create a sense of movement and depth. The piece is a large, suspended sphere made of reflective blue panels that shimmer and shift as the viewer moves around it. The effect is mesmerizing, as the panels create reflections that bounce and dance around the room, creating a sense of fluidity and dynamism.
Le Parc is an Argentine-French artist who was one of the founding members of the Op Art movement. He is known for his innovative use of light and movement, as well as his interest in creating interactive and immersive installations. Sphère Bleue invites the viewer to engage with the piece by moving around it and experiencing the changing colours and shapes first-hand.
4 – Space Displace Koan, by Liliane Lijn
Space Displace Koan, created by Liliane Lijn, is a thought-provoking and multi-dimensional work that showcases the artist’s interest in exploring the intersections of art, science, and spirituality. The piece is one of many revolving conical sculptures that Lijn produced during her career. Inspired by Zen Buddhism, these works are designed to invite extended reflection and meditation.
Lijn is an American- artist who has been at the engaging with the Kinetic and Op Art movements since the 1960s. Her work often incorporates innovative materials and technologies, and she has a particular interest in exploring the ways in which art can connect with larger philosophical and spiritual questions. Space Displace Koan is a perfect example of Lijn’s approach, as the work encourages viewers to consider the interplay between light, matter, and perception, as well as the deeper meanings and questions that can be evoked by the piece.
5 – Very Sharp, by Piero Dorazio
Very Sharp, created by Piero Dorazio, is a striking example of Op Art that showcases the artist’s interest in exploring the relationships between color, form, and perception. The work is composed of a series of sharp, angular lines rendered in bright, contrasting colors that seem to vibrate and pulse on the canvas. The geometric precision and optical effects of the work create a sense of movement and depth, drawing the viewer’s eye in and inviting them to explore the piece.
Dorazio was an Italian artist who was an important figure in the development of the Op Art movement. Described as an ‘outspoken, independent character’ who was the ‘opposite of politically correct’, Dorazio’s use of materials and colours stayed constant over time. He is mostly known for paintings with thick bands of bright colour and crosshatched grids. While abstract, his paintings do not neglect detail or complexity.
6 – Ambiguous Structure No. 92, by Jean-Pierre Yvaral
Yvaral’s Ambiguous Structure No. 92 is a fascinating example of Op Art that explores the ways in which visual perception can be manipulated through the use of geometric shapes and patterns. The work is composed of a series of interlocking quadrilaterals rendered in shifting tones of red and purple, which creates a sense of movement and depth as the viewer moves in front of it. The optical effects of the piece are striking, as the shapes seem to vibrate and shift, creating an illusion of three-dimensional space.
Yvaral was a French artist who was a key figure in the development of the Op Art movement. He was particularly interested in the ways in which technology could be used to create new forms of art and he often incorporated numerical algorithms and rules into his work. Yvaral would programme computers to manipulate his works according to such algorithms. This process rendered images, even widely recognizable ones such as Marilyn Monroe’s face, into abstract compositions. Although he digitally manipulated and processed his source imagery, Yvaral’s final works were always painted by hand.
7 – Débricollage, by Jean Tinguely
Débricollage, created by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, is a whimsical and kinetic sculpture that exemplifies the artist’s interest in using found objects and mechanical devices to create works of art. The piece is a complex assemblage of scrap metal, gears, wheels, and hand tools, all of which have been meticulously arranged and interconnected to create a dynamic and ever-changing tableau. The sculpture is powered by a motor, which causes the various elements of the piece to move and collide with one another in a playful manner.
Tinguely was a pioneering figure in the Kinetic Art movement of the 1960s, and his work often incorporated elements of humour, absurdity, and irony. He was fascinated by the interplay between art and technology, and his sculptures often explored the ways in which machines and mechanisms could be used to create works of art that were both visually compelling and conceptually rich. Débricollage is a perfect example of Tinguely’s approach, as the sculpture is a playful and irreverent exploration of the possibilities of mechanical motion and found objects.
8 – Cybernetic Sculpture: Square Tops, by Wen-Ying Tsai
Cybernetic Sculpture: Square Tops is a kinetic artwork from Tsai’s first series of ‘cybernetic sculptures’ made in the 1960s. The work is activated by a vibrating electric motor; stroboscopic light reveals undulating harmonic curves. The work interacts with the viewers via an audio feedback control system: singing, yellow, stomping or clapping instantly destabilizes the system causing its rods to accelerate and vibrate vigorously; silence allows the system to return to its undulating homoeostatic state.
As the human eye cannot perceive the transitions of the strobe flashes, the visual effect of Tsai’s work depends on an afterimage, creating, in the words of fellow artist Otto Piene, a ‘ghostly shimmer of dancing light threads’. Tsai’s work was exhibited in notable exhibitions such as The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age at MoMA, New York and Cybernetic Serendipity at ICA, London, both in 1968.
As a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, Tsai continued to experiment with new technologies, and developed lifelong friendships with Otto Piene and Gyorgy Kepes. He exhibited with Howard Wise Gallery in New York in the 1960s and Galerie Denise René in Paris beginning in the 1970s.
sophisticated computer programming to create a work of art that is both visually stunning and conceptually rich. Visitors to the exhibition will be captivated by the dynamic and ever-changing nature of Cybernetic Sculpture: Square Tops, as well as the technical and conceptual innovation that went into its creation.
9 – Light Room (Jena), by Otto Piene
Light Room (Jena), created by German artist Otto Piene, is a stunning and immersive installation that explores the interplay between light, colour, and space. The work is composed of a series of transparent perforated stencils that are lit from behind, creating a pattern of light that shifts and changes. Within the space are five motorized light-emitting sculptural elements, from the early 1960s, which are synchronized to create a continuous light play or ‘ballet’.
This work is both an important example of Piene’s life-long interest in light as a material and a key example of the work of Zero. Piene was fascinated by the ways in which light and colour could be used to create works of art that engaged the viewer’s senses and emotions, and his work often incorporated elements of performance, sculpture, and installation.