Viewing Room

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Victor VASARELY

Horn A

1965
170 x 130 cm (66 ⁷/₈ x 51 ¹/₈ inches)
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right. Signed, titled and dated at the back


Provenance:
- Victor Vasarely’s studio, Annet-sur-Marne, France
- Marie-Louise Jeanneret, Boissano, Italy acquired directly from the artist
- Private collection, France
- de Herbert Terry-Engell collection, Cannes
- Galerie Pascal Lansberg, Paris
- Private collection, Paris 
 


" Since my youth, fertilized by the Bauhaus idea, I had felt a strong attraction to linear and corpuscular structures. 1953 saw the beginning of my black and white "kinetic" period, during which these structures were widely developed. From then on I began thinking of the possibility of creating a binary plastic language that could be introduced into an electronic circuit." 
The artist, "On a Computer Project", 1968, in Marcel Joray, Vasarely II, Neuchatel 1970, p. 198


‘I am opting for a world-view according to which “good and evil”, “beautiful and ugly” and “physical and psychological” are inseparable, complimentary opposites, two sides of the same coin. Therefore black and white means to transmit and propagate messages more effectively, to inform, to give. Black and white, yes and no; black and white, dot and dash: binary units’ —V. VASARELY

Informed by Vasarely’s early work as a graphic designer in Paris, and highly influenced by his affiliations with the teachings of the Bauhaus, these works reflect the Zeitgeist of a world animated by developments in cinema and space travel. As the film industry exploded and rockets defied gravity, movement became the final frontier in art. Twenty years earlier, Malevich’s Black Square had liberated art from traditional notions of representation; now, Vasarely sought to free it from its static condition, releasing it into what he termed ‘plastic space’. His early monochromatic experiments would have a profound impact not only on his subsequent oeuvre, but also on the international development of Op Art. Predating Bridget Riley’s black and white compositions by almost three decades, Zèbres represents a pioneering recalibration of pictorial space that would continue to reverberate throughout the twentieth century.

As a child, Vasarely spent hours drawing grids and linear networks – a body of work that would later form the basis of his Naissances. In 1925, after graduating from high school, he worked at a pharmaceuticals company where, alongside a series of administrative roles, he drew panels for the company’s window displays. One day, a Bauhaus advertisement in the newspaper piqued his interest, and in 1929 he enrolled in Alexandre Bortnyik’s ‘Mühely’ (‘Studio’) where he studied graphic design. As technicolour became the new benchmark for cinema, Vasarely was conversely drawn to the binary simplicity of black and white as a springboard for his optical investigations. ‘I am opting for a world-view according to which “good and evil”, “beautiful and ugly” and “physical and psychological” are inseparable, complimentary opposites, two sides of the same coin’, he explained. ‘Therefore black and white means to transmit and propagate messages more effectively, to inform, to give’ (V. Vasarely, Notes Brutes, New York 1979). Whilst Malevich was influential in this regard, Vasarely felt that the Russian master had fundamentally reached a dead end: having stripped art down to its most basic planar form, where was left for it to go? His solution was to rotate the square in three dimensions: to spin it on its axis, to trim its corners, to observe it from all angles – in short, to liberate it from the flat surface of the canvas and conceive of it anew as a mobile web of infinite spatial possibilities. As his practice progressed, this new perspective would bring his graphic sensibilities in line with conceptual models drawn from the fields of psychology, physics and astronomy. In Zèbres, we witness the beginning of a journey that would redefine visual art as a gateway to the workings of the universe.