Published on the occasion of Bridget Riley’s major exhibition at David Zwirner in London in the summer of 2014, this fully illustrated catalogue offers intimate explorations of paintings and works on paper produced by the legendary British artist over the past fifty years, focusing specifically on her recurrent use of the stripe motif.
Riley has devoted her practice to actively engaging viewers through elementary shapes such as lines, circles, curves, and squares, creating visual experiences that at times trigger optical sensations of vibration and movement. The London show, her most extensive presentation in the city since her 2003 retrospective at Tate Britain, explored the stunning visual variety she has managed to achieve working exclusively with stripes, manipulating the surfaces of her vibrant canvases through subtle changes in hue, weight, rhythm, and density. As noted by Paul Moorhouse, “Throughout her development, Riley has drawn confirmation from Euge`ne Delacroix’s observation that ‘the first merit of a painting is to be a feast for the eyes.’ [Her] most recent stripe paintings are a striking reaffirmation of that principle, exciting and entrancing the eye in equal measure.”
Created in close collaboration with the artist, the publication’s beautifully produced color plates offer a selection of the iconic works from the exhibition. These include the artist’s first stripe works in color from the 1960s, a series of vertical compositions from the 1980s that demonstrate her so-called “Egyptian” palette—a “narrow chromatic range that recalled natural phenomena”—and an array of her modestly scaled studies, executed with gouache on graph paper and rarely before seen.
A range of texts about Riley’s original and enduring practice grounds and contextualizes the images, including new scholarship by art historian Richard Shiff, texts on both the artist’s wall paintings and newest body of work by Paul Moorhouse, 20th Century Curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and a 1978 interview with Robert Kudielka, her longtime confidant and foremost critic. Additionally, the book features little-seen archival imagery of Riley at work over the years; documentation of her recent commissions for St. Mary’s Hospital in West London, taken especially for this publication; and installation views of the exhibition itself, installed throughout the three floors of the gallery’s eighteenth-century Georgian townhouse located in the heart of Mayfair.
About the Author
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.”
Robert Kudielka is an art historian and former Professor of Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art at the University of the Arts, Berlin. He is the co-author with Bridget Riley of Paul Klee: The Nature of Creation, Works, 1914–1940 (2002) and author and editor of numerous books on Riley, including Robert Kudielka on Bridget Riley: Essays and interviews since 1972 (2005; revised and expanded edition, 2014) and The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley, Collected Writings 1965–2009 (2009).
Paul Moorhouse is the 20th Century Curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where he is responsible for acquisitions, displays, and research relating to the collection within the period from 1914 to 1990. Since 2005, he has organized several exhibitions at the museum, including Pop Art Portraits (2007), Gerhard Richter Portraits (2009), and The Queen: Art and Image (2012). Recent publications include Pop Art Portraits (2007), Anthony Caro: Presence (2010), Bridget Riley: From Life (2010), and A Guide to Twentieth Century Portraits (2013).
Richard Shiff is the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at The University of Texas at Austin, where he directs the Center for the Study of Modernism. His publications include Ce´zanne and the End of Impressionism (1984), Critical Terms for Art History (co-edited, 1996; second edition, 2003), Barnett Newman: A Catalogue Raisonne´ (co-authored, 2004), Doubt (2008), Between Sense and de Kooning (2011), and Ellsworth Kelly: New York Drawings 1954–1962 (2014), among others. For books published by David Zwirner, Shiff has contributed essays to Dan Flavin: Series and Progressions (2010) and Donald Judd (2011).
“Lush and subtler than her earlier work, the stripe paintings in this volume are meticulously printed… Two three-sheet gatefolds reproduce double-panel paintings, and a brief selection of works on paper, mainly studies, offers evidence of her hand, as do several actual-size details.” — Christopher Lyon
“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
“Bridget Riley’s work is utterly fascinating…” — Maisie Skidmore
“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
“Her precise and impeccably executed geometric visions are suggestive, taut abstractions…” — Chris Fite-Wassilak
You can “immerse yourself in [the stripe paintings’] anarchic abstract shapes and patterns, which caper and pulsate before your eyes.” — Alastair Sooke
“Riley’s dedication to form, colour, and light is shown in all its glory.” — The Editors
Riley’s stripe paintings are “timeless, compelling stuff, visually effervescent, and endlessly engaging to the eye.” — Caroline Roux