Cuppetelli and Mendoza: Interference in Art

Cuppetelli and Mendoza further what has been called Op-art since the 1960s. Op-art or Optical Art is based on illusions that occur in the interplay of geometry, optics and perception. Their characteristics are drawings, paintings or reliefs that engender the impression of movement, of flashing or vibrating, of swelling or warping although they are static. “Pictures that attack the eye” was the explaining headline of a feature on Op-art in the Time Magazine published on October 23, 1964. “Preying and playing on the fallibility in vision is the new movement of “optical art” that has sprung up across the Western world. No less a break from abstract expressionism than pop art, op art is made tantalizing, eye-teasing, even eye-smarting by visual researchers using all the ingredients…” were the opening lines and in fact, Op-art compositions create a sort of visual tension in the viewer’s mind that evoke the illusion of space and movement.

Yaacov Agam, Bridget Riley, Jesús Rafael Soto and Viktor Vasarely are among the internationally known artists. They became infatuated with physics and mathematics, graphicals design and visual perception and experimented with light and shadow, perspective and textures. In their artistic research, they blurred the borders between painting, sculpture and performance. In their footsteps, Cuppetelli and Mendoza explore the dynamics of the interaction of graphic pattern, spatial structures, space and movement in their works. They play with the overlay of the analog and the digital sphere to explore the way and the variety of shapes and forms engendered by each of their settings. Their works are objects, installations and performances at the same time.

In 1965, the Museum of Modern Art in New York celebrated Op-art with the exhibition “The Responsive Eye” artists such as Josef Albers, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Agnes Martin were featured. It focused on the perceptual aspects of art that result from the illusion of movement and the interaction of color and form. It caught major public attention and Op-art became influential for architecture, design, fashion and music. In the 21st Century, computer programs reproduce optical patterns with ease that had been done by hand and over time by the artists of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the visual phenomena of op-art are applied in projection mapping in large-format architectural or stage projections. Optical effects are used to create multi-dimensionality or ideas of movement.

Projection mapping dates to the 1960’s. Filmed head-shots of singers projected onto busts of the singers became – as the “‘Grim Grinning Ghosts” – part of the “Haunted Mansion”-ride in Disneyland in 1969. The same technic was used by the American artist Tony Oursler for his signature works of animated and projected faces onto arranged soft cloths or found objects from the 1990s. In the viewer’s perception, the motion of the digital image is transferred to the static object which is the projection ground. When Cuppetelli and Mendoza started to experiment with the interplay of textile objects and digital projections, they encountered a series of interference patterns known from analog drawing, painting and printing. The moiré pattern caught their interest. For it to appear, two or more geometric patterns must be close but not be completely identical and positioned slightly shifted, rotated or displaced. With this moire effect, the artistic team works in a series entitled “Nervous Structure”. All works are composed of several levels that interact with each other: a textile structure, a digital projection, a digital interface for observing the viewer and for translating movement patterns and software. This is how reliefs, objects and spaces are created. In the tradition of the Op Art movement, their first environments were exclusively black and white, and since 2015 they have incorporated color phenomena into their work.

By not only mapping the object but by mapping the viewer as well, Cuppetelli and Mendoza realize works that are responsive to their audience. The full range of properties of their body of work shows when visitors not only view but also move and interact in front of the installation. The installations respond to their viewers with change. They translate the viewer’s movement into their setting and allow a playful exploration to unfold. Over the last 30 years, a large number of artists and designers, photographers and animators have worked on the interaction of analogue structures and digital images in advertising, cinema and club, on stage, in architecture and in art. When Cuppetelli and Mendoza began experimenting with the interplay of textile objects and digital projections, they came across a series of interference patterns known from analogue drawing, painting and printing, in which she was particularly interested in the variation in form and colour as it occurs with the Moiré effect. To do this, two or more geometric patterns must be very close to each other, but slightly shifted, rotated or displaced. With this moire effect, the artistic team works in a series entitled “Nervous Structure”. All works are composed of several levels that interact with each other: a textile structure, a digital projection, a digital interface for observing the viewer and for translating movement patterns and software. This is how reliefs, objects and spaces are created. In the tradition of the Op Art movement, their first environments were exclusively black and white, and since 2015 they have incorporated color phenomena into their work.

Today, however, they not only map textile objects, but also the viewers. The entire spectrum of their work becomes apparent when visitors not only see the installation, but also move and interact with it. Cuppetelli and Mendoza are part of a trend entitled “Exiting the Picture”. After the Second World War, movements such as Fluxus, Happening and Performance Art as well as Land Art, Kinetic Art and Light Art were part of the ongoing artistic research, which integrated the audience’s experiential space into artistic concepts. At the same time, the movement “Light and Space” and artists like Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Marian Zazeela referred to the subjective experience of seeing as essential. With subjectivity as a priori of perception, the model of an objectively describable and static work of art was discarded. Today, a large number of artists, curators and cultural scientists are engaged in responding, interactive and participative concepts. Cuppetelli and Mendoza are among those who enrich this discourse and re-cartograph the dynamic relation of light and view, form and space, movement and time, image and view.

[Text: Bettina Pelz. 2017/2018]



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