at home: Art in Context | Bridget Riley and Ad Reinhardt's "Poor Old Tired Horse" (1965)

Alex Bacon, independent art historian, critic, curator, and publisher

at home: Art in Context

Art in Context, the Yale Center for British Art's gallery talk series, is now online. Presented by faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and student guides, these lectures are held on the last Tuesday of each month during the academic year. Each talk focuses on a particular work of art in the museum's collections or a special exhibition, and takes an in-depth look at its style, subject matter, technique, or time period.

About this program

Bridget Riley and American artist Ad Reinhardt met in London during Reinhardt’s 1964 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art. A year later, when Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay asked Reinhardt to edit an issue of his Poor Old Tired Horse journal, Reinhardt invited Riley to illustrate a selection of his musings on art and abstraction. The result melded a sequence of tilted “O” forms by Riley, who also laid out the magazine, with fragments of calligraphic text by Reinhardt.

This collaboration presented a fascinating conversation across continents and genres, bringing two abstract painters—linked by their shared concerns with the role of perception—into conversation with concrete poets like Finlay, whose works have a graphic, spatial dimension. Further it introduced Riley’s and Reinhardt’s work into the network of self-published concrete poetry magazines which were primarily distributed to foster community among the poets and their supporters.

Alex Bacon’s close analysis of this little-known journal, illuminated by archival material, allows a better understanding of the networks that existed between American and British artists in the 1960s, as well as between abstract painting and poetry in this period. It also opens avenues to understand Riley’s background in commercial illustration, her approach to printmaking, and the page as a site for her work.

About Alex Bacon

Bacon is an art historian based in London and New York City who is active as a critic, curator, and publisher. He is co-founder of Circle Books and, until recently, was a Curatorial Associate at the Princeton University Art Museum. Among his publications, Bacon is co-editor, with Hal Foster, of a collection of essays on Richard Hamilton (MIT Press, 2010) as well as the author of texts in various exhibition catalogues and edited volumes. He is completing his PhD in art history at Princeton, with a dissertation on the first decade of Frank Stella’s career.

Top image
Bridget Riley, Untitled (Fragment 4) (detail), synthetic emulsion on board, Bridget Riley Collection, © 2022 Bridget Riley, All rights reserved

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