Arp to Warhol
19 November 2016
Victor Vasarely, 1908-1997
Zaphir Negatif. 1967.
Painted wood relief multiple, in six colours. 1967. Signed in ink on the original label on the reverse - as originally issued. Numbered 16 from the edition of 50. Issued by Galerie Denise René, Paris 1967.
The painted wood relief works are Vasarely’s most important three dimensional works of the mid 1960’s period. It is rare to find examples with the paint in such fine condition as here.
Provenance: Galerie Denise René, Paris.
With very fine fresh paint colours. In the original presentation form, as issued. Overall: 380 x 360 mm.
The painted wood-relief multiples which Vasarely created in the 1960’s mark one of the most important moments in the development of ‘Op-Art’. Vasarely conceived each composition in two forms – a ‘Positif’ and a ‘Negatif’. In each the shapes of the forms are the same but used in reverse to each other – that is to say the forms which are recessed in this work would be projecting in the ‘Positif’ version. The William Weston Gallery catalogue of May this year included an example of the ‘Positif’ version of this work.
The concept of the wood-relief works was to use optical inter-play of surfaces created through colour and shape in conjunction with actual physical plane and space changes. By linking real and imagined changes Vasarely intensified the visual uncertainty of form, the idea of a mental ‘space-structure’ which was central to his ideas
Born in Hungary Vasarely worked as a commercial artist as a young man. In 1930 he decided to move to Paris. Close to the centre of avant-garde art he increasingly focussed on the way that clear geometrically-inspired shapes could be juxtaposed to create optical effects of space and movement, sometimes using all white, or black and white surfaces and then increasingly with linked and inter-acting colour tones, as in ‘Zaphir’.
Vasarely quickly established his position as the leading artist of this so-called ‘Optical Art’ or ‘Op-Art’ movement. His reputation, and in particular his international reputation, could never have been so widely established without his alliance with Denise René (see the provenance of this work, above). She was the inspired owner of one of the most avant-garde galleries in Paris and from the middle 1940’s the tireless champion of this new movement in European art. Her gallery became one of the most vibrant hubs of the art world.
Vasarely had his first exhibition with Denise René in 1944 and by the early 1950’s he was the most significant artist in her ‘stable’, along with many recruits from the world of South American art (see Demarco no 12 in this catalogue). It was at Denise René’s suggestion that he began to explore the ‘multiple’ mediums, both of screenprinting, with its superb precision of line and colour, and constructed reliefs. The finest of these reliefs were those of the mid 1960’s using painted wooden three-dimensional forms, as ‘Zaphir – Positif’ here.
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