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Tacoma Art Museum's "Optic Nerve" proves that not everything is what it seems
Jeffrey Simmons, Flux, 2002. Alkyd and epoxy resin on canvas over wood panel. 18 1/8 x 33 1/4 x 2 in. Gift of David Lewis in honor of Dr. Gregory Lewis, Nancy Cole, and Delbert Lewis, 2003.73.2
TACOMA, WA.- Have you ever wondered if your eyes are playing tricks on you? Or why someone may see something differently than you do? Tacoma Art Museum’s Optic Nerve: The Art of Perception showcases a selection of artwork that embodies these questions while venturing into ideas about visual and spatial perception. From November 2, 2013 through April 20, 2014, visitors are invited to immerse themselves in pulsating patterns, eye-dazzling colors, and disorienting forms for a whole new way of seeing.

“By manipulating your eye, the works on view heighten your experience of looking at art,” said Margaret Bullock, Curator of Collections and Special Collections at Tacoma Art Museum. “The variety of works will surprise you. For example, you might see something across the gallery that looks like paint splattered on the wall, but it is actually a three-dimensional physical structure.”

Artists have always been fascinated with manipulating the human eye and mind. From impressionism to op art, theories and ideas of how the eye perceives colors and patterns have been tested throughout history. There are a wide range of forms artists have chosen to entice viewers. Some works are meant to puzzle or visually deceive while others aim to intensify the viewing experience. Contemporary artists continue to explore these previous concepts as well as incorporate new media and techniques.

“Art has a way of speaking to people and in this exhibition the artwork challenges the viewer to consider what they are seeing from a variety of perspectives,” said Stephanie A. Stebich, Director of Tacoma Art Museum. “Perception is highlighted in a manner that will captivate people in ways they won’t expect.”

Several of the artists featured in Optic Nerve were major figures in the op art movement, including Bridget Riley, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Victor Vasarely. The exhibition also includes works by Northwest op artists Spencer Moseley and Francis Celentano, who is still actively creating art today.

Op artists embraced perceptual experimentation as the primary motive for their art, creating images that explored the illusion of movement through color and pattern. Seen as a new form of abstraction, op art influenced pop culture, fashion, and design of the 1960s.

All of the artwork in Optic Nerve comes from the museum’s permanent collection. Some works, such as John Buck’s Dragon House, have never been on display at the museum before.

Optic Nerve is an exploration of the varying degrees by which people perceive the world that surrounds them. From illusionistic techniques, to vivid colors and patterns, and deceptive forms, this exhibition encourages guests to delve into an array of art that is more than what meets the eye. This exhibition is organized by Tacoma Art Museum.

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