Post-Frankenthaler – The Art of Bridget Riley

Posted: March 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

I don’t know young people. It Doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Bridget Riley
(b. 1931)

Movement in Squares, 1961

Uneasy Center, 1963

Hesitate, 1964

Descending, 1965

Drift No. 2, 1966

  1. Natalie Van Orden says:

    I looked into Bridget Riley after you mentioned her in class the other day. I read that her ideas of exploring optical illusions stemmed from the Impressionist movement’s goal of capturing light and color in the way the human eye naturally does. I wouldn’t have noticed this connection by only looking at the paintings, because Bridget Riley’s works don’t visually connect me with the impressionist paintings I’ve seen, but it’s interesting to me that experimenting with the human eye in art can go in such different directions.
    I’m just beginning to learn about Op Art, but I really enjoy looking at these visual illusions. BYU is currently having an MC Escher exhibit that I’m planning to go see.

    • Apparently, Riley studies Impressionist painting before innovating Op-Art. While most persons consider impressionism merely feminine and decorative, it was actually based on the experimental psychology of the day, as you suggest. It’s aim was not to depict the objective world as we imagine it to be, but rather to reduce painting to most fundamental constitutive elements of vision, the individual units of color which the brain synthesizes into an image. To paint anything beyond that, these artists thought, was to paint a lie. Greenberg mentions this is his essay on medium specificity, Towards a Newer Laocoon. His claim, along these exact lines, is that the Impressionist sought to painting the bare minimum conditions necessary for the possibility of vision. The eye cannot automatically intuit depth or outline, so the Impressionists sought to eliminate these producing canvasses that look quite a bit like tests for color blindness. They achievement was a powerful step in the direction of the fllatness that Greenberg thought essential to modern art.

      While Riley herself gave up these experiments in color, she nevertheless persisted in her interest in how science could inform art. Of particular interest to her would have been research into the phenomenon of moiré patterns. While the Impressionist tried to create the effect of depth using no lines whatsoever, as lines do not appear in nature, Riley seems to haves shifted to the opposite extreme creating power effects of depth (as well as color and motion) using nothing but pure lines, without and of the modeling (shading and crosshatching) which she would most likely having considered cheating.

  2. Carl Colby says:

    Just imagine how stimulated Riley must’ve felt after spending hours/days on end in the studio looking at and creating all of those patterns! My brain is tripping out after looking at her pieces for just a few minutes. How cool.

    • Went it first read the name Riley, I for a moment thought you were mentioning Terry, not Bridget. The pronoun was all that alerted me to the person you had in mind. I wonder if there might be any relationship between the shifting optical patterns of Bridget Riley and the music of composer Terry Riley. Perhaps not. But would assert there definitely is an association to make between her art and the phase patterns of composer Steve Reich.

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