• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2005

    Latin American Sale Evening Session

    28 - 29 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 71

    Antonio Asis (Argentinian b. 1932)

    Spirales Rouges (No. 12)

    Price Realised  


    Antonio Asis (Argentinian b. 1932)
    Spirales Rouges (No. 12)
    signed, dated, titled and numbered 'Asis, 1966, Spirales Rouges, No. 12' (on the reverse)
    acrylic on panel
    80 1/8 x 36 5/8 in. (203.5 x 93 cm.)
    Painted in 1966.

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    This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

    "What are the potentialities of a visual art capable of affecting perception so physically and directly?" "Can such works, that refer to nothing outside themselves, replace with psychic effectiveness the content that has been abandoned?" "Can an advanced understanding and application of functional images open a new path from retinal excitation to emotions and ideas?"(1) William C. Seitz posed these questions at the end of his introduction to the landmark exhibition, The Responsive Eye, which in 1965 captured the phenomenon of optical, or 'op' art in the flush of its first heyday in the 1960s. Drawing on new psychologies of perception, op art radically modernized painting's traditional trompe l'oeil effect, exploiting the illusions of sensory perception to induce sometimes dazzling psychophysiological effects. More than mere optical illusion, the kinetic effects triggered by chromatic vibrations and superimposed geometries spoke to the dynamism and sustained perceptual interests of painting that seemed virtually to flicker and shift in space.

    "The trajectory of Antonio Asis is in itself a summary of the history of optical-kinetic art," Arnauld Pierre has observed, and in the artist's early inquiries into the limits and nature of visual perception we see already the sophistication of his understanding of color and space.(2) Trained in Buenos Aires, Asis arrived in Paris in 1956, at twenty-four already convinced that the austere geometries of South American concrete art were no longer capable of responding to the dynamic spirit of the modern age. In Paris he immediately encountered the work of Victor Vasarely, Jesús Rafael Soto, Yaacov Agam, Nicolas Schöffer, and Pol Bury, pioneers of op art whose early experiments would model the complex visual realities that he sought to achieve in his own work. And in short time, Pierre has remarked, Asis would clarify "the most compelling characteristics of the visual desire which motivated both artist and observer in the swinging sixties: to see more quickly and more intensely, to abandon oneself to the dizzying intoxication of the gaze, but also to engage in a relationship with the work that is free of complexes, where the awareness of the most subtle plastic realities is achieved through a type of interaction which can go as far as becoming a game and which often insists on helping to create the material situations realized by the artist."(3)

    Asis began the series Interferences concentriques at the end of the 1950s and continued to develop its logic over the following decades, experimenting with the additions of color and playing with changing perceptual effects at different scales. "Their composition in circular waves radiating from multiple centers...give[s] the impression of simultaneous, concurrent geneses," Pierre has observed. "Each epicenter of waves, endowed with its own optical energy, seems to struggle against its neighbors in affirmation of its existence in the design of the work."(4) In the present example from this series, Asis demonstrates this vibration on a monumental scale, boldly and arbitrarily splashing pools of colors across layers of crisscrossing concentric circles. The effect is at once dizzying and deeply hypnotic: the rich range of reds, from terra cotta to dark maroon, clash against the periwinkle blue and occasional black, creating at every magnified point of intersection a new chromatic relation and a dynamic surface energy. For Pierre, the composite "interaction, interference, contrast, juxtaposition or alternation of colors constitute in this way as many affirmations of the movement of color as a primordial force and universal dynamism."(5) Here, Asis finds maximal chromatic and perceptual effect in the oscillations of wild and brilliant color over repeating geometrical forms. The multiplying circles extend across our own visual field, testing the physical limits of our perception and at the same time inviting a lush, almost psychic experience of color set in endless motion.

    Abby McEwen

    1) W.C. Seitz, The Responsive Eye, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1965, 43.
    2) A. Pierre, "Chromatic Energies: The Work of Antonio Asis," Antonio Asis, Houston, Sicardi Gallery, 2007, 1.
    3) Pierre.
    4) Ibid., 3.
    5) Ibid.


    Acquired from the artist.
    Private collection, Paris.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.