The Responsive Eye (1966)


“I often say that if I was ever invited to curate an exhibition, I would choose the topic 1965, the year I was born. I have an innately strong connection to many artworks and respect for many of the artists working around this time that responded to technological and social change with research and innovation. Needless to say it was nice to be invited to review ‘The Responsive Eye,’ a 1965 Museum of Modern Art exhibition that became known as the ‘height of the Op Art wave’, as a way to investigate my imaginary show. ‘The Responsive Eye’ was curated by William C. Seitz, an early scholar of Abstract Expressionism who was progressive in his understanding of optical systems used by surrealists, impressionists, neo-impressionists, and also the Bauhaus. Although he planned for the exhibition to reflect this progression in art history, he realized the current or new practices warranted an exhibition of their own. Seitz selected 102 artists who were quite literally researching how the eye responds to experiences with foundational elements of art such as color, pattern and light in time and space. That these artists came from 19 countries and varying political and cultural beliefs (many of them from fields such as design, architecture, science, sociology and psychology) revealed an international curiosity and focus on the phenomenology of perception. There were 123 works in the exhibition by well-known artists, such as Victor Vasarely, Josef Albers and Bridget Riley, as well as little-known collectives such as the Italian Gruppo N or the Spanish Equipo 57. … On the other hand, it can be seen as a dedicated response to the situation at the time and, in that way, it was even a kind of socialist art in its reflection of the everyday. It seems there were perfect conditions to explore and share a type of art that engaged audiences in optical reactivity. The use of hallucinogenic drugs were accepted and widespread (LSD was made illegal in 1966). Television portrayed fascination with topics I love such as speed, space exploration and the future. …”
Flash Art
MoMA: The Responsive Eye
UbuWeb: The Responsive Eye (Video) 26 min.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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