MAN OF ART, MAN OF SCIENCE..
...Vasarely was a visionary, a creator, a man of science. Conscious of living in a pivotal epoch, he understood before everyone how technology would radically transforms our world, and he projected this intuition into his creations. Preaching the gospel of inter-disciplinary collaboration, he declared that “all architects, painters, sculptors must learn to work together. It is not a matter of negating the masterpieces of the past, but we have to admit that human aspirations have changed. We must transform our ancient was of thinking and conceiving art; particularly in the cities we must share it, make it accessible to all. Art must be generous.”
Vasarely invested all his strength in the realization of his ideas and enjoyed during his lifetime a degree of fame rarely experienced by artists. The 1970’s witnessed the climax of his glory. Vasarely became the unassuming celebrity of the American art world, a public place thereafter. In an instant his austere, monastic life was transformed, and he became a sacred monster of art, culture, and media. He was not prepared. Overwhelmed by his success and the attention that came with it, he was barely able to manage the extraordinary situations that followed.
Very soon the Op wave reached beyond the art world and appeared in clothing, shoes, textiles, and jewelry, thrusting him into the center of a uniquely postmodern whirlwind of instant internationalization and frenzied mass commercialism.
But Vasarely flew high, solitary, and independent, dominating his surroundings with a stately presence and undaunted rigor. He was almost too much of everything. An over-powering magnetic force emanated from within him. He was one of those beings born to make us believe again in man. His generosity was legendary, and as if all these qualities were not enough, he was handsome and armed with an irresistible charm that he displayed until the end. He adored animals, had many pets, and was a firm believer in leading a very regular and healthy life, devoid of superfluous luxuries. Fascinated by nature, he would scrutinize the bushes, trees, and leaves from his workshop’s enormous bay windows, enraptured by their overlapping contours, their synchronous movement, the endless permutations of the inherent mathematical logic of living things, the poetry of the phenomena of a life, all of which were so deeply rooted in his work. He always thought that man would better comprehend humanity by dedicating more time to observing nature.
Vasarely never touched a computer. He was in his eighties when the first rudimentary personal computers entered the market. And yet, the day after he passed away, the headline of one of France’s most prestigious newspapers read “the Father of the Computer Dies.”
I will never forget his reaction when I showed him a new machine I had just discovered the fax. There we were, the great visionary and I, looking at this electronic box magically giving birth to the handwriting of a friend on the other side of the Atlantic, as if we were witnessing an apparition. Vasarely’s expression was a mix of amazement, excitement, disbelief, and pride much like a child who had just achieved something he had dreamed of but of which he had not been quite sure he was capable. Then he broke the silence with his usual humor and said, “Finally, my time is coming...a little late for me but fortunately not for my work.”
Many times I wonder what he would be doing today, with the aid of the technological tools he mimicked in his mind long before they existed. He would almost certainly be doing jus the same: reaching far into the unknown, far into its intoxicating mystery.