Post #1236 • September 24, 2008, 3:45 PM • 9 Comments
Buffalo, NY - The irony of Op Art Revisited at the Albright Knox Museum is that Josef Albers crushes everyone else in the show. He does this with the least means - no motors, no complementary hues, no wicker-weaves of blended gradients, and with the least overt use of what me might as well call Oppishness. The trickery on display in this exhibition is awesome, and that's the main reason to see a show like this, even if it has you clutching your temples - or your stomach - by the time you've seen several roomfuls of it. But the gadgetry, optical illusions, kinetics, and visual goofiness tend to overwhelm the art, and the best artists using Op techniques can at least to some extent prevent them from doing so. Bridget Riley looks especially good here in a piece called Vein. It ought to degenerate into wallpaper, but does not thanks to the optical grouping of warm and cool colors, which creates a sort of foreground/background effect. (The Karin Davie next to it does the reverse, looking like it should set up as a painting and instead degenerating into wallpaper. Art is funny stuff.) The 1963 Larry Poons is handsome but will make no one regret that he abandoned the movement. Vasarely (official website here) looks as dated as disco.
One telling grouping puts a 2004 installation of rotating disks by Olafur Eliasson near similar-looking disks adorned with black and white spirals from the '60s by Karl Gerstner and Francis Celentano. The Gerstner uses warped glass to make the spirals appear to expand and contract as you walk by. The Celentano spins, creating a hypno-disk effect. The Eliasson twirls three suspended glass disks in front of a lamp, and the metallic concentric circles applied to them simultaneously cast shadows and reflections on the walls. It's all nifty, consummately nifty, but it peaks at niftiness, and it indicates that in forty years we might expect Eliasson's reputation to compare to Celentano's, a name that will occur to some future curator when he revisits one of the many novelty acts of 20-21st Century art.