Post-Frankenthaler – The Art of Bridget Riley

Posted: February 20, 2019 in Uncategorized

Students this semester didn’t show any interest in the art of Helen Frankenthaler. Is it possible that a female abstract expressionist means nothing in 2019? Perhaps the Op-Art of Bridget Riley will make a stronger impression. One upon a time, it didn’t get any cooler than this.

Bridget Riley
(b. 1931)

Movement in Squares, 1961

Uneasy Center, 1963

Hesitate, 1964

Descending, 1965

Drift No. 2, 1966

  1. 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.

  3. Jeffrey Soper says:

    This is awesome stuff coming from such minimal design. I love how most of these are only two colours and one basic shape squished or enlarged to create depth. It creates movement with nothing there.

    • This painting, because of its overtly optical nature is not really minimalist, despite the fact that its elements are very few. In work such as this we come close to the end of the line, or point of ‘exhaustion’ Fried mentions in his essay. I’ll try to point out just why Fried is so concerned over this collapse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s