In October 2017 the Chinati Foundation will inaugurate a large new multicolored wall painting by Bridget Riley. The artwork has been conceived specifically for the museum’s special exhibition building and will encompass the entire U-shaped enclosure. The work will debut during Chinati Weekend, October 6 through 8, and remain on view through 2019.
For more than fifty years Bridget Riley has pursued a rigorous, open-ended, and self-renewing inquiry into the constituent elements of abstract painting. She established her reputation in the early and mid-1960s with visually dizzying black-and-white works and then, through a slow step-by-step process later that decade, began to explore the properties of color. Throughout her career, Riley has developed paintings through the accumulation and distribution of particular forms—vertical and horizontal stripes, circles, triangles, and rhomboids, curving bands—that move rhythmically across the surface of a painting. The works create luminous visual fields that are difficult to take in all at once and that seem to shimmer, blink, and glow in an indeterminate space between the viewer and the actual surface of the painting. Over the course of her career, Riley’s explorations of the possibilities of a given template of shapes and colors have prompted further investigations, and she often returns to forms she has used earlier in order to test them in new contexts.
Riley’s first wall painting was made in response to a 1979 invitation from the Royal Liverpool Hospital to conceive a work for its walls. Riley devised a visual scheme featuring horizontal ribbons of color, running the lengths of the hospital corridors. The palette, like that of her paintings at the time, was inspired by a 1980 trip to the pyramids and tomb paintings of ancient Egypt. Of this color scheme Riley later wrote: “The Ancient Egyptians had a fixed palette. They used the same colors—turquoise, blue, red, yellow, green, black and white—for over 3,000 years….In each and every usage these colors appeared different but at the same time they united the appearance of the entire culture. Perhaps even more important, the precise shades of these colors had evolved under a brilliant North African light and consequently they seemed to embody the light and even reflect it back from the walls.”
Riley completed the design for the Royal Liverpool Hospital in 1983. In the years since, she has made many more wall paintings, including a work for two floors of St. Mary’s Hospital in London in 1987, with a third floor completed in 2014. In addition to these commissions, Riley has made wall drawings for numerous museum and gallery exhibitions and collections in the U.S., the U.K., and Europe.
Riley’s wall painting for Chinati will be the artist’s largest work to date and span six of the eight walls of the building. As referenced in the work’s title, Wall Painting, Royal Liverpool Hospital 1983–2017, the mural revisits Riley’s Egyptian palette and establishes a continuity between the design for the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the new work for Chinati. It is inspired in part by similarities in size and spatial orientation in the sites of each project and affinities between the brilliant light and palette the artist witnessed in Egypt and the high desert landscape in which the Chinati Foundation is situated.
Riley draws inspiration from nature—not as a subject to be depicted but as a play of perceptions and sensations. She has written: “For me nature is not landscape, but the dynamism of visual forces—an event rather than an appearance. These forces can only be tackled by treating color and form as ultimate identities, freeing them from all descriptive or functional roles.” Riley’s paintings make plain how they were made yet induce optical effects that supersede their physical qualities, demonstrating a rapport with works in Chinati’s permanent collection by artists of her generation such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Robert Irwin. Her wall painting for Chinati will merge art and architecture and release the potentiality of color in harmony with many of the works in the museum’s collection.
Riley’s exhibition will be inaugurated during Chinati Weekend, October 6 through 8. The work will remain on view for two years and be available for viewing during Chinati’s guided tours, Wednesday through Sunday, as well as during special viewing hours throughout the year. For more information, please visit www.chinati.org.
Bridget Riley first achieved international recognition for her participation in the exhibition “The Responsive Eye” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965. She received the International Prize for painting at the 34th Venice Biennale in 1968. The first retrospective of her work opened at the Kunstverein in Hanover in 1970 and subsequently traveled to Bern, Dusseldorf, Turin, and London; a second survey of her work opened in 1978 at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY and traveled to Dallas, TX, Purchase, NY, Sydney, Australia, Perth, Australia, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Japan. In 1989 Riley curated an exhibition at the National Gallery in London as part of the museum’s series “The Artist’s Eye.” In 1992 the retrospective “Bridget Riley: Paintings 1982–1992” opened at Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Germany and traveled to the Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop, Germany, the Hayward Gallery in London, and the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK. Riley co-curated an exhibition of Mondrian’s work at the Tate Gallery in 1996. In 1999 “Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s” opened at the Serpentine Gallery, London and the first edition of The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley, Collected Writings 1965–1999 was published. The survey “Bridget Riley: Reconnaissance” opened at Dia Center for the Arts, New York in 2000. With Robert Kudielka, Riley curated the exhibition “Paul Klee: The Nature of Creation” at the Hayward Gallery, London in 2002. In 2003 a retrospective of Riley’s work opened at Tate Britain, and the largest ever survey of her work opened at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2008. A second, expanded edition of The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley was published in 2009. In 2010 “Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Works” opened at the National Gallery, London. In 2012 Riley received the Rubens Prize from the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Germany and the Sikkens Prize in The Hague. In 2015 “Learning from Seurat,” an exhibition pairing an early study by Riley of Seurat’s work with seven of his paintings, opened at the Courtauld Gallery in London.
Chinati Weekend 2017 is generously supported by Brooke Alexander, Anonymous, Robert and Valerie Arber, Diane Barnes and Jon Otis, Katherine Bash and Duncan Kennedy, Shari and John Behnke, The Donald and Carole Chaiken Foundation, Gisela Colon, Cina Forgason, Jeff Fort, Fraenkel Gallery, Matthew Goudeau, Marieluise Hessel, Christopher C. Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Keen, Ben E. Keith Foundation, Kirkpatrick Family Fund, Charles Mary Kubricht and Ron Sommers, Kathy McDaniel and Kevin Flynn, Happy Price, Susan Ringo and Barry Sonnenfeld, Robert Soros, Jill and John Walsh, and Vault Fine Art Services (list in formation).
Chinati's Bridget Riley exhibition has been realized with generous support from Rolf Fehlbaum, Fifth Floor Foundation, Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin | Paris, Genesis Foundation, Fredericka Hunter and Ian Glennie, Raymond Learsy, Celeste and Anthony Meier, Caius Pawson and Brenda R. Potter, and David Zwirner, New York/London (list in formation).
Chinati's educational and public programming is supported with generous grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Brown Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, the Permian Basin Area Foundation, the Warren Skaaren Trust, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and the City of Marfa. Chinati is grateful for the generous financial support of our members and the support and in-kind contributions of the people of Marfa and far West Texas.