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“Totally Visual”?

“Totally Visual”?

Op Art’s Neural Iconography and the Engineered Picture

(p.115) 7 “Totally Visual”?
Ribbon of Darkness
Barbara Maria Stafford
University of Chicago Press

OP Art conditions the viewer to feel, not just see, how art happens. It models knowledge about the dialogical acts of seeing, obliging us to perform, not merely witness, the tension existing between the riverine flow of consciousness and its random rupture. Thus OP prefigures the merger of bio-intelligence with machine-like interfaces. Playing with geometric transformations in scale, rotation, warping, reflection, or shearing, as well as color or value gradients and Gestalt figure/ground reversals, the hypnotic compositions of Richard Anuszkiewicz, Bridget Riley, and Victor Vasarely manifest at a gut, not just a retinal, level the collapse of harmonious order and its dislocation or decay into the nausea of disorientation. This essay argues that pioneer OP artist, Edna Andrade’s rule-governed, mathematically precise, demandingly interactive paintings look forward to contemporary computer art that sets software into storms of motion. A similar “cold sober” functionality is lodged within the meticulous compositional process she uses to create an animated, engineered picture, that is, one that exists without apparent human agency. Once decisions are taken, her perceptually intricate work seems to graph itself autonomously, “square by square,“ just like life or the self-generating brain.

Keywords:   Autonomous Creation, Bridget Riley, Computer Art, Disorientation, Engineered Picture, Edna Andrade, Merger of Bio-Intelligence with Machine Interfaces, OP Art, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Victor Vasarely

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