January 1998

Bridget Riley - Suspension, 1964
Bridget Riley British, b. 1931
Suspension, 1964
emulsion on wood
Collection Walker Art Center
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Julius E. Davis, 1981

Bridget Riley is a New York‚based artist who first gained recognition in the mid-1960s as a leading figure in the Op Art movement. Op Art is a type of abstract artwork in which optical illusions are created with the use of pattern, making a flat surface appear three-dimensional and move or vibrate.

Throughout the 1950s Riley studied the Post-Impressionists of the late 19th century, focusing on the work of Georges Seurat, whose elaborate scenes made up of hand-painted dots gave the illusion of a cohesive whole. Riley took Seurat's methods a step further by extending these dots into lines, depicting figures and landscapes through the juxtaposition of contrasting dark and light marks. In the 1960s, Riley moved away from representation into pure abstraction, developing her own individual style.

While her black-and-white paintings may appear to be scientific studies of visual perception, their hand-painted quality and playful designs bely a formulaic rigidity. Suspension is a particularly good example of Riley's work. The black lines applied to a white board vary in thickness and shape in direct relation to one another, creating the appearance of movement or vibration, which in turn presents the perception of form and depth. The shape of the painting is also instrumental in creating this effect -- Riley often paints on boards cut to various shapes to heighten the optical illusions.