The Responsive Eye
March 21, 2011 1:43 AM   Subscribe

The Responsive Eye. Brian De Palma's 1966 film (25 mins) of the opening night of New York MOMA's 'The Responsive Eye' exhibition on op art.
posted by ClanvidHorse (13 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
That was really nice. I liked seeing Rudolf Arnheim, doing what he did best... discussing art in perceptual terms.

posted by twoleftfeet at 2:16 AM on March 21, 2011

Also, I'm grateful this early De Palma film didn't have the camera swoop down from a great height or from far below. Because those kinds of camera tricks combined with op art can make me lose my lunch.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:52 AM on March 21, 2011

I love how people have to explain what the pieces are doing, since there's no way to experience most of them in black & white.
posted by rottytooth at 5:57 AM on March 21, 2011

Whoops, posted too soon -- it's just the first group that's concerned with color. The Moire pattern images are pretty cool.
posted by rottytooth at 6:07 AM on March 21, 2011

monocle at 22:40

(I wish it included more footage of Albers - he's ecstatic and is implying he feels validated - awesome stuff)
posted by archivist at 6:57 AM on March 21, 2011

As a composer I am envious of the violence that optical art gets away with.
posted by idiopath at 8:15 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you guys are crazy about this formalist approach to MoMA, you'll love 'Painters Painting' (1968). I give the Socialites in DePalma's film a pass because it is only filmed in 1966.

PP was made in 1968, after the US was lit on fire and one too many progressive leaders -- Malcolm, MLK, RFK -- had been shot and the riots left the cities in tatters. Those artists and curators have no excuses.
posted by vhsiv at 9:02 AM on March 21, 2011

As a composer I am envious of the violence that optical art gets away with.

Well you CAN turn it off just by closing your eyes and looking away. Not so with sound (in a typical public performance, anyway).
So don't feel bad- visual violence is puny beside the terrible majesty of sonic onslaught. Op art is like a naughty little spanking for your eyes; sound can actually be used to beat you up.

That said, how long can you handle this? (Warning: Augenkrebs)
posted by Casimir at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2011

What I find fascinating about this is that is appears that, at some point shortly before I was born, moire patterns and other op art techniques were actually new and unfamiliar.

I grew up with books with these kinds of patterns in them, or wrapping paper, or advertisements, or whatever. So it's difficult for me to imagine that all this was Big And New at some point.

Or maybe it wasn't? Maybe it just had never been looked on as ART before?

Either way, it's fascinating to see a bunch of seemingly sophisticated people being so taken by a school of art which it never occurred to me may not have always existed.

Great film, great post. Thanks!
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on March 21, 2011

Oh, man, I love the bit around 5:23 where we've just come to this very repetitive black and white work that creates the far-off illusion of undulating grey shapes via what is essentially a hand-designed halftone. The guy being interviewed (a curator?) starts talking about how "part of it is that a human being would be willing to sit down and make, let's say five thousand dots". And meanwhile I'm here in 2011 thinking "I could make that in like ten minutes with a few carefully-chosen blends in Illustrator."

This makes me want to get back to applying some op tricks to my representative work.

A 'blend' in Illustrator is a process where the artist draws two or more shapes, and tells AI to draw the stages of a morph between them. The original use-case was mostly for making blends between two colors, hence the name, but it's good for all kinds of wonderful multiplication of imagery.
posted by egypturnash at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2011

Also I totally need to scrounge up a copy of the catalog from this show.
posted by egypturnash at 12:48 PM on March 21, 2011

Great post, I am always fascinated by contemporaneous reception in art history, and also as a historical document this film is endlessly interesting. Brian De Palma no less.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 5:52 PM on March 21, 2011

As an exercise, I put my money where my mouth is and reproduced the piece seen around 5:23 with Illustrator. It took me about an hour to make, in part because I took pains to try and reproduce it as exactly as possible. Ignoring the various stuff I drew while working it out, I had to draw a mere 120 horizontal dotted lines - then my uncomplaining, magically fast assistant took over and drew all those other damn dots for me.

I didn't even have to draw any of the dots. All I had to say was "there is a line here, it is this wide, and it's got this particular dash pattern".

I shudder to imagine how much time the original piece took to make. A quick calculation tells me there are about 11664 dots in it.
posted by egypturnash at 11:10 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

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