Vancouver Art Gallery
October 17, 2020 – April 05, 2021
This fall, the Vancouver Art Gallery presents Victor Vasarely, a selected survey of paintings, sculptures and prints by the Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely (1906–1997), internationally renowned for his colorful abstract patterns and playful, and visually engaging aesthetic. The exhibition focuses on his artistic production from the 1960s and 70s, at the height of his popularity. With the most extensive collection of Vasarely artworks in Canada, the Gallery offers a unique opportunity for the public to discover this influential artist’s rich and varied practice.
Widely celebrated as the founder of Op Art (Optical Art), Vasarely was an innovator whose vibrant art produced the optical illusion of dynamic movement: they appear to pulse, shimmer and vibrate. The ideological nature of Vasarely’s vision can be found in his desire to make art easily accessible to people in their homes, buildings and public spaces. Merging artworks and printed multiples, his abstract language is featured not only in his paintings, sculptures and architectural integrations but also reproduced on prints, posters, dishware and textiles. Vasarely’s interest in the democratization of art and his use of mass production and interdisciplinarity continue to resonate with artistic practices today.
“Advocating for the essential role of art in everyday life was a key part of Vasarely’s utopian vision that motivated his practice through the years,” observes Anthony Kiendl, Gallery Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “He is especially influential in his adoption of a publicly accessible approach, extending art beyond gallery walls and into domestic and public spaces.”
Organized in conjunction with Victor Vasarely is the exhibition Op Art in Vancouver, a selection of paintings and prints from the Gallery’s permanent collection that reflects the emergence of Op Art in Vancouver. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, several Vancouver artists began a focused engagement with abstract art and ideas that developed locally and had distinct and formative links to artists and movements gaining prominence both nationally and internationally. Op Art celebrated instability, transformation and movement caused by both optical phenomena within a composition and by the physical activity of the viewer in front of the artworks. Artists such as Gordon Smith, Brian Fisher, Takao Tanabe, Michael Morris, Joan Balzar, and Bodo Pfeifer actively embraced this dynamic new form of abstraction.
Developed in response to Victor Vasarely, the group exhibition Uncommon Language critiques and complicates Vasarely’s romantic desire for a universal aesthetic language. Uncommon Language invites visitors to query the universality of Vasarely’s visual Esperanto and asks viewers: “What does it mean to be universal? Is such universality even desirable?” Featured local, national and international artists from the Gallery’s permanent collection include Josef Albers, Sonny Assu, Vija Celmins, Allyson Clay, Andrew Dadson, Beau Dick, General Idea, Jean Goguen, Betty Goodwin, Angela Grauerholz, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Allison Hrabluik, Robert Indiana, Mary Kelly, Ann Kipling, Lui Shou Kwan, Ken Lum, Agnes Martin, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, Françoise Sullivan, Takao Tanabe, Cy Twombly, Rachel Whiteread, Joyce Wieland, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and Zhu Jinshi, as well as invited artists Karin Jones and Zoe Kreye.