When do we think about the mechanics of seeing? When we know our perceptions are being messed with — as when we’re confronted with optical illusions. And who’s a master of the visual mess-around? Philly’s own Edna Andrade (1917-2008), currently celebrated in “Color Motion,” a dazzling, eyeball-jiggling exhibit at The Print Center.
With a background in design as well as fine art, Andrade embraced then-commercial screenprinting’s flat, even application of ink and color as she began exploring print and embracing op art (a cousin of pop art that incorporates optical illusion into the aesthetic, tweaking the connection between the eye and the brain) in the 1960s. Color Motion (1965) and Black Diamond (1967) warp in and out of the paper’s plane, while Gemini’s (1966) pinwheels, shown above, seem to spin on colored axles.
The Print Center amps up the visual overload by hanging Andrade’s prints on walls patterned with the artist’s motifs — the work of Philly’s Anona Studio, which specializes in print designs for fashion. It’s a clever nod to Andrade’s background in design, and her prints really pop against the bright graphics.
Just as the prints’ precision and manipulation of visual processing grow alienating, relief comes in the form of some small works and printed fabric. One tiny, grid-based drawing stands as an intimate look at Andrade’s process. A few feet away, a fall of blue fabric in a sinuous pattern softens and humanizes, a nice antidote all that ruler-straight geometry.
Things get weird again as Andrade explores the aesthetics of psychedelia — 1972’s Hot Clouds layers a circle of magenta and orange-red against a flat cerulean background. A pale, geometric constellation crisscrosses the globe, starbursting over orange, then magenta. The eye traces vertex to vertex, square over square, until — circuits blown — it’s time to go back to the everyday.
“Color Motion,” through Nov. 17, free, The Print Center, 1614 Latimer St., 215-735-6090, printcenter.org.