How Much Do You Know About Op Art?

Test your knowledge of an art form that aims to play tricks on your brain

By Google Arts & Culture

Movement in Squares (1961) by Bridget RileyArts Council Collection

Op Art; a world of images where nothing is quite as it seems. It's all about tricking your eyes and your mind, but can you stay focused and answer these quiz questions? Scroll on to test yourself...

Question 1: What does ‘Op’ stand for?

‘Op’ is short for optical, a word used to describe the way we see images. It is particularly suited to this kind of art as it aims to play games with how our brains interpret the information our eyes are giving us. Op artists try to use colors, shapes and patterns to create images that look as if they are moving or blurring, playing tricks on the viewer.

Conversation (1992) by Bridget RileyLakeland Arts - Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum

Question 2: When did the Op Art movement start?

In the 1960s. The term ‘Op Art’ was coined in 1964 by Time magazine to describe work that relies on optical illusions. It has a strong relation to geometric design, originally produced mostly in black and white but later in vibrant color. A 1965 exhibition in New York called The Responsive Eye brought Op Art to the world's attention.

Kaglo II (1986) by Victor VasarelyInter-American Development Bank

Question 3: How does Op Art work?

It works by exploiting the relationship between the eye and the part of the brain that interprets images. Certain patterns, shapes, or color combinations can cause confusion between the retina and the brain, creating optical effects such as movement or alteration of the image. 

Arrest 2 (1965) by Bridget RileyThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

It might seem like simple visual trickery but Op Art uses many of the same techniques employed in traditional art. Most painting is based on creating depth and perspective in a two dimensional field.

Op Art simply takes these rules and bends them a little, to broaden what they are capable of achieving.

Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

Question 4: Who are the most well-known Op artists?

Op Artists may not have had quite the same cultural impact as contemporary pop artists such as Andy Warhol, but several became major names in the art world of the time. Perhaps the best known exponent of the medium was Victor Vasarely. He had grown skeptical of traditional ideas about art and artists and aimed to use advances in technology and modern techniques to create a new form of art. 

Bridget Riley, Study for 'Blaze' (1962)British Museum

Another major name is British artist Bridget Riley who used carefully programmed patterns to create dizzying geometric structures and images. Her aim was to separate the physiological and psychological responses to her work.

How much did you know?

Did you already know about Op Art or did you learn some new art facts? If you are keen to explore Op Art you can see more here.

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