The Responsive Eye


Bridget Riley (b. 1931)
Study for “Polarity”
Graphite and gouache
Collection of the artist
© Bridget Riley 2023. All rights reserved.


Rachel Federman: In the spring of 1965, Riley’s work appeared in “The Responsive Eye,” a controversial exhibition of optical, or what came to be known as “Op art,” held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her painting Current, comprising undulating waves similar to those seen here, appeared on the catalogue cover. The exhibition brought extraordinary attention to Riley’s work, but also challenges, as she saw her work co-opted without her permission for fashion and advertising. During this period, Riley spoke hesitatingly to an interviewer about the pressures of success:

Bridget Riley: You know, there is a philosophy since the 19th century of failure, which protects an artist. There's a moral equation between failure and value, um, and we've got geared to this. Well, now we've got this problem of success and there's no actual philosophy to, to cope with; we've got to evolve one. And there's a, um, I think this is going to be what ... one of the problems.