There is a certain amount of energy and movement in all art forms. Theater, dance and music all share clear paths to exuberance and animation. Visual art can also take the form of form and energy.
“Afterimages: Geometric Abstraction and Perception,” on display at the Akron Art Museum through Jan. 9, is a visually appealing exhibit that features artists who have created “bold, bright and dazzling works,” the museum description says. Indeed, it’s hard not to find yourself circling around as you work to capture all the color and movement of the exhibit.
This exhibition has its roots in the op art movement that was most popular in the 1960s and 1970s. During this period, many artists began to find ways to create different perceptual effects, such as vibrant patterns and colors that leave afterimages when you turn to look at something else.
Inspired by technology and often using technology to help create their work, the artists in this exhibition focused on creating “visual and mental experiences”. The museum presents art as “immediately accessible” and “not created to illustrate complicated ideas or to express hidden emotions”. It’s hard to know for sure; However, what is clear is that the included art is indeed accessible and fun to engage and explore.
Exploring the exhibition is complemented by a short printed guide, which invites you to find ways to see and notice how “color, line, shape and texture impact your perception”. It’s a carefully crafted print piece that really helps you when interacting with the artwork, especially if your experience with this type of art is limited.
A painted wood construction by Luis Tomasello, “Atmosphere Chromaplastique N.400”, is a subtle but dazzling example of how some artists have used materials in new and innovative ways. In this work, sensory movement is created through a repeated cubic shape that has been arranged on a square grid on a square board. The whole construction was painted white, but bright pink and blue paint was used on the lower part of the cubes, where they were fixed alternately. This use of paint created shadow-like, but sometimes vividly colored, reflections throughout the composition.
“It’s not easy to be green,” by Julian Stanczak, is a large square canvas that has been painted with a shining electric green star in the center. The green eventually turns blue around the edges of the canvas, and the entire artwork has been painted in a repeating square pattern.
The term “op art” was coined by Donald Judd in response to Stanczak’s first solo show in New York. Stanczak was a longtime professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and his influence is still felt and seen through exhibitions like this one.
“The Blue Planet,” by Helen Lundberg, is a 1965 acrylic on canvas that features a circular “planet” shape painted from blue to brown, then back to blue in an organic structure similar to a topographic map. The central shape is painted on a uniform blue background, which focuses your eye on the darker elements of the painting.
The colors help to vibrate and pulsate the entire work, although due to the earthy tones of the composition, the vibrations do not reach the galactic proportions of most other paintings.
One of the most impressive pieces is a large acrylic construction that dominates the largest gallery space. “Walk Through”, by Sanford Wurmfeld, consists of sheets of cast acrylic tinted with primary colors. The sheets are bound lengthwise with room for viewers to walk through and around the construction.
Wurmfeld is a painter who started experimenting with this type of construction in 1970. In this room you can see through the work in the other spaces of the museum as you walk through the construction. This interaction causes your body to do what your eye typically does when it looks at the surface of a painting. More than that, however, the colors used and the clarity of the acrylic make the structure almost appear to be floating around the room. It’s hard to say where the color starts and ends with this piece.
“Afterimages: Geometric Abstraction and Perception” is the type of show that leaves you energized and engaged. It’s also an exhibit you’ll want to see more than once.
Exposure: “Afterimages: Geometric abstraction and perception.”
Appointment: From October 2 to January 9.
Place: Akron Art Museum, 1 S. High St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (extended hours until 8 p.m. on the second Friday of each month); 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; Closed Monday and Tuesday.
More information: akronartmuseum.org or 330-376-9186.