3rd June 2021 - 2nd October 2021
David Zwirner Gallery
24 Grafton Street, London.
David Zwirner is pleased to present Past into Present, paintings by Bridget Riley, in the gallery’s Grafton Street location in London. The exhibition principally features work by Riley from the last two years, with reference to the work of the past, both in her own practice and in the art of painting itself.
Over the course of her more than six-decade career, Riley has frequently returned to earlier ideas and even to specific works in order to identify alternative directions that a form could take. As she has noted, ‘I am sometimes asked “What is your objective” and this I cannot truthfully answer. I work “from” something rather than “towards” something. It is a process of discovery.’
The exhibition includes an extension of the Measure for Measure series of paintings, advanced first through the addition of a fourth colour—turquoise—and then through a deepening of tone in the new Measure for Measure Dark paintings. These developments enrich the viewer’s enjoyment, giving them something more to look at.
Since the gallery’s exhibition of Measure for Measure paintings in 2018, the large wall painting Messengers (2019) has been installed in the Annenberg Court at The National Gallery, London, using the palette of the same three colours—off-orange, off-blue, and off-green.
Also included are Riley’s new Intervals paintings, which have only been seen in London at Frieze before COVID struck, and are her most recent engagement with sustained inquiry within a self-determined set of formal parameters. As Éric de Chassey notes, ‘In the Intervals, as in the Measure for Measure paintings, the conflicts and contradictions are subtle—or non-assertive—but they clearly are fundamental to the kind of harmony that Riley strives for and achieves in each picture.’2 The Intervals paintings share the three colours of the Vapour paintings and the Measure for Measure series.
A new wall painting related to the Intervals series is being unveiled in September 2021 as a part of the exhibition. Though she has completed site-specific murals, beginning in 1983 with her work for the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, the development of Riley’s body of wall paintings, initiated in 2007 with Arcadia 1, underscores perception itself as her enduring subject. Painting directly on the wall, Riley collapses the distinction between figure, ground, and support, thus activating the picture plane in a different way than her works on canvas. Here, Riley has introduced a further permutation on her Intervals, expanding the format and rotating it so that the stripes are positioned in a vertical orientation, implicating the wall itself as the framing device.
Following Riley’s visits to her retrospective exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland and the Hayward Gallery in 2019 to 2020, she noticed how many of the visitors were looking attentively at the work on view and finding new things to discover in even the most familiar of her paintings. Riley herself had the same experience and this has prompted her to move the past into the present with two new Static paintings, first painted in 1966 following her trip to Mont Ventoux in the South of France, and being almost blinded by the brightness and shimmer of the white stone shale in the sunlight.
Black to White Discs, Riley’s second abstract painting in 1962, and its small study are also shown. In this painting, she deliberately worked to ‘slow down’ the movement of the eye by enlarging the scale of the units used and consequently the painting itself. This was a direct response to her first comparatively smaller painting Movement in Squares (1961).
On the occasion of the exhibition, a monograph is forthcoming from David Zwirner Books, featuring new scholarship by art historian Éric de Chassey.
Riley has worked with David Zwirner since 2014. This is her fifth solo exhibition with the gallery.