Spotlight: A Mesmerizing Show of Bridget Riley’s Monumental Op Art Wall Works Goes on View in Berlin

Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin showcases four decades of Riley's large-scale paintings in its summer exhibition.

Bridget Riley, detail of Bolt of Colour (Wll Painting) [Marfa] (2017). © Bridget Riley (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, Paris, London.

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About the Artist: English artist Bridget Riley (b. 1931) is widely recognized for her colorful, geometric pattern paintings, and as a pioneering force in the 1960s Op art movement. A graduate of both Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art, Riley’s early works (before 1960s) were largely landscape and figure paintings done in an impressionistic style, inspired by her studies of the Pointillists—specifically Georges Seurat. The optical effects of pointillism led her to experiment further with color and composition, and through the influence of contemporaries like Richard Anuszkiewicz and more senior painters such as Victor Vasarely, Riley came to develop her own inimitable style of abstraction. Over the course of her decades-long career, Riley has continued to experiment with the boundaries of her own practice, from producing small-scale prints to major installation pieces, and finding inspiration from everyday life as well as world travels. She has been the recipient of many major commissions, and her work is held in institutional collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Collection, London; and Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

What You Need to Know: This month, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, opened the largest retrospective of Riley’s wall paintings in the solo exhibition “Bridget Riley: Wall Works 1983–2023.” Held at the gallery’s Potsdamer Straße 77–87 location, the show is Riley’s ninth solo display with the gallery and features 13 works—half loans from important public collections and four that are new compositions. The large-format paintings are complimented by the large exhibition spaces, which allow visitors to have a fully immersive viewing experience of the works and explore Riley’s unique artistic practice. On view through August 19, 2023, “Bridget Riley: Wall Works 1983–2023” follows on the heels of the unveiling in early May of Riley’s first-ever ceiling painting, Verve, in the foyer of the British School at Rome.

Why We Like It: With her mesmeric and intriguing compositions of geometric color, Riley’s work has captivated the art world for more than four decades. Her frequently monumental wall paintings provide a sense of visual envelopment not often found in Op art, adding another dimension to the public’s visual encounters with her work. In the current show, there is a juxtaposition contained not only within each individual piece—between color and shape—but between works from different periods and collections, offering visitor’s an invaluable opportunity to gain comprehensive insight into Riley’s oeuvre and the artistic imperatives she has consistently pursued over the course of her career. In Cosmos (2017), the complimentary palette of colors in a strategic pattern make it appear that the dots are hovering above, rather than on, the wall. Elsewhere, Bolt of Color (2017) makes the viewer conscious of the boundaries of their own vision. The show overall is a testament to Riley’s singular achievements within Op art.

See inside the exhibition and featured works below.

Installation view of “Bridget Riley: Wall Works 1983–2023)” (2023). Photo: def image. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin.

Bridget Riley, Intervals Wall Painting (2021). Photo: def image. © Bridget Riley (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, Paris, London.

Bridget Riley, Angel (2022). Photo: def image. © Bridget Riley (2023). Collection of King Edward VII Hospital, London.

Bridget Riley, Cosmos (2017). Photo: def image. ©Bridget Riley. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bridget Riley, detail of Cosmos (2017). Photo: def image. ©Bridget Riley. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bridget Riley: Wall Works 1983–2023” is on view at Galerie Max Hetzler, Postdamer Straße 77-87, Berlin, through August 19, 2023.

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