Shigeo Fukuda was a sculptor, graphic artist and poster designer who created optical illusions. His art pieces usually portray deception, such as Lunch With a Helmet On, a sculpture created entirely from forks, knives, and spoons, that casts a detailed shadow of a motorcycle.
Fukuda was born on February 4, 1932 in Tokyo to a family that was involved in manufacturing toys. After the end of World War II, he became interested in the minimalist Swiss Style of graphic design, and graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1956.
The New York Times described how Fukuda's posters "distilled complex concepts into compelling images of logo-simplicity". His commercial work included his creation of the official poster for the 1970 World's Fair in Osaka. A 1980 poster created for Amnesty International features a clenched fist interwoven with barbed wire, with the letter "S" in the word "Amnesty" at the top of the poster formed from a linked shackle. "Victory 1945", one of his best-known works, features a projectile heading straight at the opening of the barrel of a cannon. A pair of posters created to celebrate Earth Day include a design showing the Earth as a seed opening against a solid sea-blue background and "1982 Happy Earth Day", which shows an axe with its head against the ground and a small branch sprouting upwards from its handle.
In 1987, Fukuda was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in New York City, which described him as "Japan's consummate visual communicator", making him the first Japanese designer chosen for this recognition. The Art Directors Club noted the "bitingly satirical commentary on the senselessness of war" shown in "Victory 1945", which won him the grand prize at the 1975 Warsaw Poster Contest, a competition whose proceeds went to the Peace Fund Movement.
His home outside Tokyo featured a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) front door that would appear far away from someone approaching the house. This door was a visual trick, with the actual entrance to the house being an unornamented white door designed to blend in seamlessly with the walls of the house.
In 1965, an exhibition called The Responsive Eye, created by William C. Seitz was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The works shown were wide ranging, encompassing the minimalism of Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly, the smooth plasticity of Alexander Liberman, the collaborative efforts of the Anonima group, alongside the well-known Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Bridget Riley.
The exhibition focused on the perceptual aspects of art, which result both from the illusion of movement and the interaction of color relationships. The exhibition was enormously popular with the general public, though less so with the critics. Critics dismissed op art as portraying nothing more than trompe l'oeil, or tricks that fool the eye. Regardless, op art's popularity with the public increased, and op art images were used in a number of commercial contexts. Bridget Riley tried to sue an American company, without success, for using one of her paintings as the basis of a fabric design.
The American artist collaborative, Anonima Group, was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1960 by Ernst Benkert, Francis Hewitt and Ed Mieczkowski. Propelled by their rejection of the cult of the ego and automatic style of the Abstract Expressionists, the artists worked collaboratively on grid-based, spatially fluctuating drawings and paintings that were precise investigations of the scientific phenomena and psychology of optical perception. The work was accompanied by writings: proposals, projects and manifestos - socialist in nature - which the artists considered essential to the experience and understanding of their work.
Their drawings, paintings and writings, which had much in common with the positions of artist Ad Reinhardt, and with the Russian Constructivists, were included in the 1965 Responsive Eye exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Along with other artists in the exhibit, Anonima's work was incorrectly relegated to what came to be the highly commercialized and publicized category of Op Art.
A recent reconsideration and recontextualization of Op Art, the expansive 2006 Optic Nerve exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art, places the Anonima as the sole American collaborative group, along with the European Zero Group, Gruppo N, GRAV and others, who were examining new optical information at that time.
Zero is an artist group founded in Düsseldorf by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene. Piene described it as “a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning.” In 1961 Günther Uecker joined the Zero group. ZERO stands for the international movement, with artists from Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy.
The Gruppo N was born in 1959 in Padua as a free association called Ennea. The following year, nine of the original nine members remain: Alberto Biasi, Ennio Chiggio, Toni Costa, Edoardo Landi, Manfredo Massironi, who will name the group N, the first truly anonymous group. Other groups were born earlier: in 1951 in Zagreb Exact 51; Equip 57 in 1957 in Spain and others followed in 1960, Group T in Milan and GRAV in Paris. The Group N had strong innovative ideas in all directions of behavior and design.
The poetic statement presented in 1961 on the occasion of the 12th Lissone Prize is explicit:
"The term enne distinguishes a group of experimental designers united by the need to collectively research."
Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel
Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) (Research Art Group) was a collaborative artists group in Paris that consisted of eleven opto-kinetic artists who picked up on Victor Vasarely's concept that the sole artist was outdated and which, according to its 1963 manifesto, appealed to the direct participation of the public with an influence on its behavior, notably through the use of interactive labyrinths.
GRAV was active in Paris from 1960 to 1968. Their main aim was to merge the individual identities of the members into a collective and individually anonymous activity linked to the scientific and technological disciplines based around collective events called Labyrinths.
Their ideals enticed them to investigate a wide spectrum of kinetic art and op art optical effects by using various types of artificial light and mechanical movement. In their first Labyrinth, held in 1963 at the Paris Biennale, they presented three years work based on optical and kinetic devices. Thereafter they discovered that their effort to engage the human eye had shifted their concerns towards those of spectator participation; a foreshadow of interactive art.
Equipo 57 is the ultimate example of Radical Geometric Abstract Art in Spain and whose work, in both practice and theory, defends an art of social commitment.
In 1957 the group makes public, through a manifesto, their artistic purposes: the denunciation of production and market mechanisms, the desire to renew the current artistic situation and the search for a social function to art and the integration of the artist in society. With this they are part of an activist attitude that is characteristic of these avant-garde groups and - in the words of Ángel Llorente - their work "shows the alternative that led the Equipo: the defence of a new artistic behaviour in society. An assumed social commitment, although there are some contradictions, regarding the artistic practice of geometric abstraction." To carry out these objectives, this group became interested in rationalistic and analytical tendencies which carried the strong stamp of scientific approaches.
The beginnings of Equipo 57 are intertwined with painting and a consequent artistic theory. As noted by Llorente, from painting and its theoretical production its members move onto sculpture and architecture as a logical consequence of their research on the physical and architectural space (based on surfaces) and interactivity of the artistic space.