Bridget Riley’s explorations of perception through form and color have made her into one of the most significant painters working today. Since the early 1960s, she has used elementary shapes—lines, circles, curves, and squares—to create visual experiences that immediately draw the viewer in, often triggering optical vibrations and illusions. More recently, Riley has shifted back to black and white in her large-scale paintings, marking a departure from her recent colored stripe paintings and a return to the palette of some of her earliest works.
Published on the occasion of her 2015 solo exhibition at David Zwirner, Bridget Riley: Works 1981–2015 presents paintings from the last thirty-four years of her career, including images of Rajasthan, a wall painting previously shown in Germany and England, and exhibited for the first time in New York. These dynamic reproductions begin with stripe paintings from the 1980s and end with a coda of sorts —a return to black and white that ties back to her work from the 1960s, but bear traces of Riley’s deep engagement with color in the interim. As critic Éric de Chassey puts it in his essay for Riley’s 2015 catalogue with Galerie Max Hetzler: “The black-and-white paintings not only enter into a dialogue with the 1960s works, but take stock of every painting experience Riley has created during a long career.”
Also included is a selection of the artist’s works on paper; taken together, these complementary aspects of her practice over the past four decades reveal the astonishing variety she has achieved by developing and rediscovering different forms. An essay by art historian Richard Shiff helps contextualize the developments in Riley’s practice since the early 1980s, and further emphasizes her influence and lineage as a painter. Rounding out the publication are biographical notes by Robert Kudielka, one of the artist’s foremost critics. With a career spanning six decades, Bridget Riley remains one of the most exciting painters today, and Bridget Riley: Works 1981–2015 presents a selection of works from what may be her richest period to date.
One of the most significant artists working today, Bridget Riley’s dedication to the interaction of form and color has led to a continued exploration of perception. From the early 1960s, she has used elementary shapes such as lines, circles, curves, and squares to create visual experiences that actively engage the viewer, at times triggering optical sensations of vibration and movement. Her earliest black-and-white compositions offer impressions of several other pigments, while ensuing, multi-chromatic works present color as an active component. Although abstract, her practice is closely linked with nature, which she understands to be “the dynamism of visual forces—an event rather than an appearance.”
Bridget Riley: Works 1981–2015 celebrates “[Riley’s] enduring genius… Whether it’s her early canvases or current pieces, throughout Riley’s long career her work has consistently challenged the viewer’s perspective.”
– Catriona Gray, Harper’s Bazaar
“Riley's paintings seem to defy scholarly interpretation. Her central interest is visual sensation: through geometric repetition, tonal inversion, compression, and expansion, she's able to exploit what she calls ‘visual energy’ to produce striking optical phenomena.”
– Jake Malooley, Reader
“Bridget Riley’s work is utterly fascinating…”
– Maisie Skidmore, It’s Nice That
“Bridget Riley is the most important British painter of the modern age. Bacon? Freud? Hockney? None of those famous men took hold of the language of painting and remade it as she has.”
– Jonathan Jones, The Guardian
“Each painting is incredibly carefully planned, and deeply theoretically rigorous.”