Starting in 1960, color bursts out in the “Planetary Folklore” works. The plastic unit used “consists of two geometric elements that fit one into the other, that come together, that switch places".
Using these bicolor units with solid or contrasting colors, the artist invents the Alphabet Plastique which breathes new life into an idea which dates back to the beginning of the century among abstract artists - the search for a method to create a universal language understandable by all.
This Plastic Alphabet opens the door to the introduction of collective art. Through the matching and transforming of shapes and shades, the artist makes a number of different illusions appear. “The use of combinations of this scale in plastic art provides a universal tool, without limiting the expression of personality such as that of ethnic identities.” In this combinatory art, elements can be coded or programmed. Vasarely uses new techniques and technologies to diversify and compose new works ad infinitum. Elements can be prefabricated using industrial processes, and the works are monumental and integrated into architecture and our urban environment.
“The future takes shape in this new geometric polychromatic and solar city. Here, plastic arts will be kinetic, multi-dimensional and collective… most definitely abstract and inseparable from science.”
From 1964 to 1976, Vasarely’s interest turns to cell structure as expressed in a series of works he calls “Hommage à l’Hexagone” in which relief is seen as an element in a constant state of transformation, sometimes hollow, sometimes prominent. Ambiguity is emphasized with the addition of colored lines which create a “trompe l'oeil perpetuum mobile”, and plunge the art back into the optical art style he had embraced during his black & white period. This period is followed by the architecturally oriented “Gestalt” period, inspired by the Gestalt phenomenon.
In 1965, Vasarely participated in the “Responsive Eye” exhibition dedicated to Optical Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The idea behind this initiative is the “suggestion” of movement without the actual movement. It establishes a new relationship between artwork and its viewer by provoking the latter’s active participation. The viewer is free to interpret the image in as many visual contexts as he may see fit. Following the success of this new trend, the press and enthusiasts baptize Vasarely the inventor of “optical art".
Continuing his studies on motion and perception, Vasarely goes back to the drawing board during his Vonal period [1964-1970] when linear work on zebras, grids and the origins of his black & white period reappears, this time with color. A kinetic element and a spatial dimension are added with repeating lines which decrease in proportion as the viewer looks into the center of the piece.
In 1968, playing with the distortion of lines, Vasarely defined his “universal structures” and enlisted in the popular “Vega” period in which the swelling caused by the deformation of elements results in forms that appear to bulge out from the piece and create spectacular volumes. Through such works as “Feny” (1963), “Vega Tek” (1968) and “Vega 200” (1968), the artist evokes the elusive universe.