until 19.08. | #3938ARTatBerlin | Galerie Max Hetzler (Potsdamer Str.) shows from 9. June 2023 the exhibition Wall Works 1983–2023 of the artist Bridget Riley.
Wall Works 1983-2023, is a solo exhibition by Bridget Riley at Galerie Max Hetzler, Potsdamer Strasse 77-87. This is the artist’s ninth solo exhibition at the gallery and the most comprehensive retrospective of her wall paintings to date. Thirteen compositions, half of which are on loan from international public collections and four of which are newly created, offer an overview of this important group of works.
‘Those entering the exhibition rooms of Galerie Max Hetzler will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the world of the British painter Bridget Riley (b. 1931). Thirteen large-format paintings stretch across the walls, spread over two floors. Together, the works form a serene school of vision. For Riley, the act of seeing is not a given. On the contrary, viewing, observing, looking, and focusing are actions which are often misunderstood by their performers. According to the artist, the challenge of modern art is “learning to paint once more and to reinvent painting for oneself.” Her point of departure lies in the many ways in which the world appears to us, and the question of how one might translate seeing into painting. Riley considers so-called “realism” to be a misunderstanding. In a 1998 conversation, she sums up the misconception of what we consider as painted reality, noting: “people would be very shocked indeed if the world itself was as dead in its appearance as they seem to expect a painting to be.”
So, how do we see? The presented murals are composed of elements of visible phenomena – the toolbox of appearances. Colour. Shape. Light. Darkness. Outline. Form. Support. Yet, the impression that these minimalist forms go hand in hand with a simple visual experience is deceptive. Perception plays tricks on us. Dancing to the Music of Time, for instance, is the title of a work created for the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in 2022. Here, what appears to be a collection of disparate dots suddenly begins to move as the viewer’s gaze sweeps across the surface. The eye, Riley notes, is “surprised by flashes of light.” Similarly, in Composition of Circles from 2005, our sense of sight falters as the circles begin to oscillate. There is no primary or secondary narrative; our lenses try in vain to focus.
In her paintings, Riley takes up a tradition that reaches far back into art history. In the 19th century, no movement was more concerned with the phenomenon of perception than Impressionism, as demonstrated by the French painter Georges Seurat, in whose works cities and their inhabitants dissolve into trembling dots which could disperse at any moment, like flocks of birds. In the same period, the tricks played on us by light and shadow prompted the German physicist and physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz to quip that the human eye is “a badly crafted instrument” which he would feel “fully justified in returning”, if sold to him by an optician. Afterimages, false colours, flashes of light – Helmholtz’s list of grievances was long. Riley, however, turns this assessment on its head, presenting these supposed weaknesses as strengths. The idiosyncrasies of the eye form the basis for the pleasure of seeing. They are not flaws at all, but rather provide the abundance from which art can draw.
This diversity is a constant theme in Riley’s work; in Intervals Wall Painting, 2021, simple chords of colour in three varying tones prompt optical surprises; in Rajasthan (Wall Painting), 2012, the eye searches in vain for the boundary where the painting ends and the wall begins; in Cosmos, 2017, the dots seem to float above the wall like a constellation of stars in space, alternating between proximity and distance.
Bridget Riley’s works remind us that we need painting to understand the exhilaration of seeing.’
Coinciding with this retrospective of Bridget Riley’s wall paintings in Berlin, the artist’s first ever ceiling painting was unveiled in the British School at Rome in early May 2023. Entitled Verve, the large-scale work has been installed in the foyer of the BSR, covering four barrel vaults of the ceiling and using Riley’s ‘Egyptian palette’ to ‘offer a glimpse of nature in her most promising and serene mood’.1
Bridget Riley was born in 1931 in London, United Kingdom, where she lives and works. Solo exhibitions of the artist’s work have been held in international institutions, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2023); Art Institute of Chicago (2022 and 2014); Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; The Philips Collection, Washington, D.C. (all 2022); Hayward Gallery, London (2019–2020); National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; National Gallery, London (both 2019); Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura (2018); Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (both 2016); The Courtauld Institute, London (2015); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen (2012); The National Gallery, London (2010); Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2004); Tate Britain, London (2003); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (2000); Serpentine Gallery, London (1999); National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (1980); Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas (1978); Kunsthalle Bern; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (both 1971); Kunstverein Hannover (1970); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1969); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1966), among others. The artist represented Britain at the 34th Venice Biennale (1968) where she was awarded the prize for painting. Riley participated in Documenta IV (1968) and Documenta VI (1977).
Bridget Riley’s works can be found in the public collections of over 113 museums and foundations worldwide, including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; and Tate, London, among others.
The artist’s work will be the subject of a solo exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, from June to October 2023.
Location : Potsdamer Straße 77–87, 10785 Berlin
Opening : Friday, 9. June 2023, 6pm to 8pm
Exhibition dates : Friday, 9. June – Saturday, 19. August 2023To the Gallery
Image caption: Bridget Riley, Rajasthan (Wall Painting), 2012 Photo: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Exhibition Bridget Riley – Galerie Max Hetzler | Contemporary Art – Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin – Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien – ART at Berlin