Victor Vasarely

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Biography of Victor Vasarely ( 1906-1997 )

Victor Vasarely was born in Pécs, Hungary on 9 April 1908. He started medical studies before enter the Academy Mühely in Budapest at the age of 20. In this school that was integrated the principle of Bauhaus he became the pupil of Alexandre Bortnyik, himself a pupil of Joseph Albers and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who put the emphasis on publicity. It is as an advertising designer that Vasarely settled in Paris in 1931. He first worked as a graphic designer to earn his living and developed his own style based on science observation. His first solo exhibition in France took place in November 1944 to Denise René whom name will become inseparable from Vasarely’s.

In the post-war period, the avant-gardes followed in Paris: geometric art outshined before being surpassed by lyric abstraction. The exhibition « Mouvement » that gathered for example Calder, Soto, Tinguely and Vasarely was the occasion for the artist to publish his “Manifeste Jaune” that put the basis of kinetic art.

Victor Vasarely explained the origin of Kinetic Art from his reflection around the circle and the square : “These two elements rigorously represented on the plane, we had to imagine them in the space, from that was born the kinetic art”. The artist developed his definition and the objectives of kinetic art that staged “the illusion of movement” due the four dimensions : the two dimensions of the plane, the movement and the time.

In my opinion, the circle derives from the sun and the square from the window. The window is an opening to the light or an abyss if you look at it from the outside. These two notions, the sun and the window, one cosmic and distant, the other close and in direct correlation with the being, with the living cell, with the workshop, this possibility of escape and this need to go back inside again, dark from outside but so bright when you are inside, I believe that these are the two forms that, from the point of view of meaning, can be the origin of the circle and the square.

The artist’s desire  to escape the constraints of the art “milieu” and to free himself from galleries in order to market his work led him to open his own space in New York, on Madison Avenue: the Vasarely Center, which would close ten years later. Our painting was one of the works chosen for the inaugural hanging in May 1978, as the photo of the painter in front of the canvas attests.

Although the Op Art developed by Vasarely was based on science, it found a warm welcome in popular culture and established itself as the abstract counterpart to Pop Art. Wishing to make art accessible to all, the artist developed collaborations with architects from the 1950s onwards, the best example being the Centre architectonique d'Aix-en-Provence. Inaugurated in 1976 and now the Vasarely Foundation, the building is a model of a "polychrome city of happiness" as the artist wanted.

Vasarely won prizes all over the world and left his mark on abstract art from the 1950s to the 1980s.


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