Being one of the most significant contemporary artists, Bridget Riley’s work has radically explored the active role of perception in art, using the interrelationship between line and color to convey movement and light within the pictorial field. From the early 1960s, she has employed elementary shapes like circles, stripes and curves to create visual experiences that actively engage the viewer, testing the limits of each element at various stages throughout her career.
A comprehensive show of the artist’s work at David Zwirner Gallery, New York, marks fifty years since Riley’s participation in The Responsive Eye at The Museum of Modern Art, a highly influential group show which led to instant, international recognition for the young British painter. The exhibition includes paintings as well as works on paper spanning almost thirty-five years of Riley’s practice.
It takes its chronological point of departure in vertical stripe works from the early 1980s featuring her specific pallette at that time that was inspired by the artist’s trip to Egypt in late 1979, which unlike previous combinations of color was organized according to plastic (and not rational) principles. These asymmetrical compositions anticipated the ensuing diagonal grid paintings that Riley began in 1986. Featuring rhomboid shapes that break up the picture plane, these in turn became the foundation for her curved paintings in the late 1990s.
Vertical, curvilinear shapes prevailed in the past decade and also characterize her wall painting Rajasthan (2012), a composition of intersecting forms in green, gray, orange, and red whose presentation here marks its first display outside of Europe. The exhibition culminates with Riley’s most recent stripe works as well as a new series of black-and-white paintings that explore concavity and convexity of the line, all shown here for the first time.
The return to painting in black and white, which she had abandoned in the mid-1960s in order to explore the properties of color, was directly inspired by Riley’s 1962 painting Tremor, and here appears in the current context of five decades of work. As art historian Éric de Chassey notes, these new compositions “not only enter into a dialogue with the 1960s works, but take stock of every painting experience Riley has created during a long career. [She once] remarked: ‘I had to work through the black-and-white paintings before I could even begin to think about possibilities of color.’ The 2014–2015 paintings stem from the reverse: a working through the color paintings has enabled her to come to a new series of black-and-white works.”
BRIDGET RILEY DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY NEW YORK Trough 19 December davidzwirner.com