The Johnson Collection Gallery

Optical Illusions: Geometry, Color, and Movement

This revelatory exhibition showcases how twentieth-century artists manipulated human senses through hue, light, and spatial relationships to create complex visual experiences for audiences. Dubbed “Op Art,” these abstract images seem to swell, vibrate, or recede before one’s very eyes, and reflect the psychedelic sensibility that merged technology and psychology in the 1960s. Widely popular in that decade of aesthetic experimentation, Op Art can trace its origins to Germany’s Bauhaus tradition of the 1920s and 1930s. A school of the European avant-garde, the Bauhaus stressed rationality and innovation, and often emphasized simplified geometric forms. Former Bauhaus artists such as Josef and Anni Albers explored the limits of perception through the dynamic juxtaposition of bold colors and high contrast black-and-white lines. Before its decline in the 1970s, Op Art found platforms in major museum exhibitions, as well as the retail marketplace of t-shirts and posters. With works that are both decorative and scientific by such artist as Robert Courtright, Philip Mullen, Oli Sihvonen, Sewell Sillman, John Urbain, and Jack Youngerman, this exhibition is an interactive encounter that will trick the eye and deceive the brain through a plethora of optical stimuli, ultimately blurring the line between science and art.

Hailed by The Magazine Antiques with staging a “quiet art historical revolution” and expanding “the meaning of regional,” the Johnson Collection offers an extensive survey of artistic activity in the American South from the late eighteenth century to the present day. In May 2016, the collection received the Governor’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts, South Carolina’s highest honor in the field. Located at 154 West Main Street in the heart of Spartanburg’s downtown, TJC Gallery features rotating selections from the collection’s holdings. These curated exhibitions are open to the public without charge twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 5pm. In addition, TJC Gallery is pleased to participate in the city’s ArtWalk series, held on the third Thursday of each month from 5pm to 8pm.