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Traversing the Highwire from Pop to Optical

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On the basis of his retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, it is evident that Roy Lichtenstein forged a narrow trajectory through the thickets of contemporary art... Unlike some of his protean fellow artists, such as David Hockney or Frank Stella, he found his style early in his career and followed its course with almost scientific precision for his entire life... Lichtenstein's cartoon style of representation can be seen as an ironic commentary on the elitism of art, implying that art is merely a selection from the endless variety of images that bombard us... The rest of the image can be thrown away without significant loss of its import... Nobel-Prize-winning experimental work conducted by David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel in the late 1950s consolidated this notion with the discovery that individual neurons in the visual cortex can be characterized as simple line detectors, i.e., that they are most active when a line of a particular orientation is found in a particular part of the visual world... Such effects represent a resonance with so-called optical art (“op art”), a style promoted in the mid 1960s—by Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, in particular—that relies on visual illusion generated at the early levels of the nervous system: the retinal, the receptoral, the oculomotor, and the neural... Despite its name, it is not concerned with strictly optical effects such as diffraction, diffusion, interference, scintillation, polarization, and related optical phenomena... It is concerned with the visual and perceptual effects of dancing grids, jazzy dots, clashing colors, sliding waves, and so on... Indeed, he plays with the dot-screen as a theme in his later works, notably in the vast Mirror in Six Panels (1971), which shows nothing but the mirror surface reflecting empty space, apparently rendered in the transparent sheets of Benday dots in common use by graphic artists... Refreshingly, this is one of the few works that does not contain references to other art genres, but jousts with the concept of the image itself, again a reflection of nothing at all... Here Lichtenstein abandons the cartoon-style bravura of line and text bubbles in a triplet of silk-screen close-ups of Monet's painterly impressions, differing only in the choice of colors for the three panels... In Lichtenstein's Monet, the shimmer of the isoluminance interplays with the shimmer of the dot-screen to evoke a visual enigma, as we explore the image space to see whether the structure is indeed the same as in the flanking panels... Very few artists have played with the power of isoluminance to achieve this role in form processing: Lichtenstein seems to have been on to this property a decade earlier than Gregory, although he soon retreats back to the boldness of his cartoon pop-art style to explore a potpourri of the icons of classic sources... Just why high-density dots and lines elicit such powerful responses from our visual apparatus remains unexplained... Indeed, the issue does not seem even to be a topic of current research interest, despite the proliferation of research activities in visual processing in general.

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Traversing the Highwire from Pop to Optical
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View Article: PubMed Central

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

On the basis of his retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, it is evident that Roy Lichtenstein forged a narrow trajectory through the thickets of contemporary art... Unlike some of his protean fellow artists, such as David Hockney or Frank Stella, he found his style early in his career and followed its course with almost scientific precision for his entire life... Lichtenstein's cartoon style of representation can be seen as an ironic commentary on the elitism of art, implying that art is merely a selection from the endless variety of images that bombard us... The rest of the image can be thrown away without significant loss of its import... Nobel-Prize-winning experimental work conducted by David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel in the late 1950s consolidated this notion with the discovery that individual neurons in the visual cortex can be characterized as simple line detectors, i.e., that they are most active when a line of a particular orientation is found in a particular part of the visual world... Such effects represent a resonance with so-called optical art (“op art”), a style promoted in the mid 1960s—by Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, in particular—that relies on visual illusion generated at the early levels of the nervous system: the retinal, the receptoral, the oculomotor, and the neural... Despite its name, it is not concerned with strictly optical effects such as diffraction, diffusion, interference, scintillation, polarization, and related optical phenomena... It is concerned with the visual and perceptual effects of dancing grids, jazzy dots, clashing colors, sliding waves, and so on... Indeed, he plays with the dot-screen as a theme in his later works, notably in the vast Mirror in Six Panels (1971), which shows nothing but the mirror surface reflecting empty space, apparently rendered in the transparent sheets of Benday dots in common use by graphic artists... Refreshingly, this is one of the few works that does not contain references to other art genres, but jousts with the concept of the image itself, again a reflection of nothing at all... Here Lichtenstein abandons the cartoon-style bravura of line and text bubbles in a triplet of silk-screen close-ups of Monet's painterly impressions, differing only in the choice of colors for the three panels... In Lichtenstein's Monet, the shimmer of the isoluminance interplays with the shimmer of the dot-screen to evoke a visual enigma, as we explore the image space to see whether the structure is indeed the same as in the flanking panels... Very few artists have played with the power of isoluminance to achieve this role in form processing: Lichtenstein seems to have been on to this property a decade earlier than Gregory, although he soon retreats back to the boldness of his cartoon pop-art style to explore a potpourri of the icons of classic sources... Just why high-density dots and lines elicit such powerful responses from our visual apparatus remains unexplained... Indeed, the issue does not seem even to be a topic of current research interest, despite the proliferation of research activities in visual processing in general.

No MeSH data available.