THE Sewell Centre Gallery, set in the grounds of an independent boarding school for boys – Radley College – continues to reassert its position as a forum for artistic debate.

This time it tackles the “That’s not art!” public cry that is heard almost as loudly now in response to some contemporary art as it was half a century ago.

The Sewell Centre Gallery has mounted an art exhibition that reflects upon a pivotal Op-Art show that took place in the prestigious MOMA New York over 50 years ago, The Responsive Eye.

The Sewell Centre Gallery’s exhibition, The Responsive Eye Revisited, features 22 works of art several of which are by artists who exhibited in the 1965 MOMA exhibition.

This exhibition opened on Saturday and continues until February 11 and poses an exciting and rare opportunity to see works by artists such as Bridget Riley, Antonio Asis, Francois Morelett, Peter Sedgley, and Alberto Biasi amongst others.

Op-Art, or optical art, was a term coined by Time Magazine in in 1964 to describe a new, abstract, movement in contemporary art that uses optical illusions to give the viewer the impression of movement or hidden images. American artist, art historian and curator William C Seitz described Op-Art works in the catalogue that accompanied the 1965 MOMA exhibition as such, “These works exist less as objects to be examined than as generators of perceptual responses in the eye and mind of the viewer.”

Despite attracting 180,000 visitors, The Responsive Eye exhibition was met with palpable ambivalence half a century ago; heralded as “one of the most exciting artistic events in a decade”, and simultaneously dismissed as “fascinating as a technique, but...not art at all.”

Regardless of one’s stance, the exhibition irrefutably succeeded in establishing Op-Art’s place in the canon of 20th-century avant-garde art movements by exploring a new way of seeing that depends on the perception and behaviour of the eye of the spectator; in doing so developing an approach to looking and to art practice that continues to resonate today.

The exhibition in Radley explores ways in which ground-breaking Op-Art artists have influenced, and continue to influence, young artists. In doing so, the exhibition exemplifies a shared, and seemingly perpetual, fascination with formal simplicity and visual dynamism.

Thea Wiltshire, an MA History of Art student familiar with the works in the exhibition, said: “In a world of increasing empiricism, is our 21st century gaze too accustomed to the trickery of CGI or the acrobatics of 3D? This show proves otherwise, tapping into such fundamental questions as what constitutes reality: the concrete, or our perception of it?

“As we gaze at these works we are forced to shift, duck, squint and re-examine what we can no longer be certain of, and thus we are encouraged to view other works with greater consideration.”

The works in the exhibition come from a private collector who suggested the exhibition with the aim of exposing the students and the greater community to Op-Art, and to use art as a vehicle by which to stimulate debate and discourse.

It is the same collector who loaned works by Tracey Emin for an exhibition at the centre in 2015.

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Amanda Jewell, the Sewell Centre Gallery curator said: “During the Tracey Emin show, we would find boys in the gallery, at their own will, looking at the work and debating it among themselves – asking the big questions about what art is today.

“The lender is hoping the same kind of discussions will arise from this exhibition as well.” Jewell said the Sewell Centre Gallery programme of art exhibitions was integrated into the school’s curriculum demonstrating the relevance of art in our everyday lives.

She added: “There were quite a lot of composers creating music around the same time as these works were being made, so we’ll be working closely with our music department. Our science department will also be involved using the art on display to explore the relationship between the cornea and brain.

“Of course, our art students will be doing workshops, and we’d like to encourage local schools to use the exhibition too.”

Through the Responsive Eye Revisited, the Sewell Centre Gallery aims to use the works on display to affirm how a viewer’s experience, and the innovations of the 1960s, are still as vital and pertinent today as they were over half a century ago.

* The exhibition is at the Sewell Centre Gallery until February 11 open 10am-4pm. The exhibition is closed between Friday, January 22, and Sunday, January 24.