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Audrey Riley: Double Time

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Audrey Riley has proven herself as one of the most prolific, capable, and ambitious artists to come out of Fort Wayne in a while. I last covered the progress of this artist a little over a year ago as she was getting ready for her first solo show with Spurious Fugitive Gallery in South Bend, which later picked her up as a represented artist. Riley, the former creative director and owner of the ad agency Riley+Company, has gained further momentum exhibiting her vast and growing body of work, expanding into new genres, new galleries, and new collections.

This is a very exciting time for Riley, because she has just recently finished her graduate degree from the University of Saint Francis. For an emerging artist, this is the period of their career when their style has taken form and they are beginning to show their work to the world. Audrey Riley, being both an artist and a phenomenal business woman, has taken off a couple steps ahead, with a fully formed signature style taking multiple forms, valuable gallery experience including representation, and the confidence to be stubborn when it comes to executing her art pieces in exactly the way she sees fit.

All of these reasons obviously influenced the directors of the Spurious Fugitive Gallery of South Bend to show her work for the first time in the fall of 2007. Since this show, Riley was added as a represented artist, and also exhibited in the late 2007 group show "Diminutive Fables" and the 2008 three person show there, "Current Undercurrents: Armstrong, Auth, and Riley." However, because of the current economic climate, especially in the Elkhart/South Bend area, Spurious Fugitive had to close their doors in early 2009. But in the art world, the saying "When one door closes, another opens" is always true; Eyedart Gallery in Goshen, Indiana which opened its doors in 2004, and gave Audrey Riley a solo show there in late 2008, entitled "Measures."

"Measures" was Riley's first exhibition of many of her pieces that are constructed on ready made press sheets. These press sheets are the leftovers and throwaways from commercial printers, which Riley reclaims, edits, crops, and creates a new context for by adding her trademark spinning tops, collaged words and phrases, chaotic stampings, and photorealistic renderings on top of the color fields and "zips" of color. These press sheets, especially pieces like "Momentum" and "Spin Out," play with many of the ideas of abstraction ranging from early abstract expressionism to high and post-minimalism. These clever and gorgeous works on paper show a bit more finesse in Riley's techniques than some of her past works which, although equally as well done and intellectually satisfying, lacked the sleekness and virtuosity which the press sheets have allowed for. "Measures" was also a success because it opened Riley's work up another community hungry for contemporary art.

Since her last solo show, Riley has been working on her art as vigorously as ever, producing a terrifying amount of new work, and in large scales in preparation for her Graduate Thesis show at the University of Saint Francis. Many of her new works on large press sheet paper are two feet by three feet and larger. These works all play with color, space, and collage in one sense or another and a distinct conceptual subgroup is beginning to take form in her pieces which elaborate on breakdowns of line of communication, focusing on single conversations. From this work letters are thrown haphazardly throughout the visual plane, words are overlapped and strung together creating chaotic clouds of communication. After experimenting with silkscreening in San Diego, Riley has added yet another facet to her work, creating ever more distinctly graphic works, while playing with blending colors together, and arranging patterns and words to create beautiful ornamental abstractions reminiscent of Philip Taaffe and Ryan McGuinness.

Currently, Audrey Riley's work can be seen at the University of Saint Francis' Weatherhead Gallery, where you can view her massive newest piece entitled "Conversation". This wonderfully complex and time intensive piece was made by combining pyrography, colored pencil, acrylic, ink, collage, and encaustic all on separate panels of yardsticks which, when combined and hung create a beautiful vignette and description of a relationship through a conversation between two individuals. This piece more than any of her others carries a more existential and voyeuristic tone, linking it to the abstract expressionists, in that the viewer is now witnessing the conversation, while in past pieces, the abstracted words were more detached and did evoke the personality of "Conversation". Other pieces on view are "The Plot" a wonderful smaller colored pencil on yard stick piece, and "Uttered Chaos" a Dadaistic press sheet piece.

And if you didn't think all of this was enough, Audrey Riley will be displaying a solo survey of her works at Club Soda throughout June in the first of three shows in the "Summer Set", curated and hosted by Wunderkammer Company, treating Club Soda as an alternative exhibition space. Here you will be able to see Riley's evolution from some of her early large and small works on yardsticks, her exploration of works on paper using pronto plate lithography, her expansion into press sheets, and her newest incarnation with never-before-shown silkscreened works on paper. With Audrey Riley's diehard work ethic, incomparable attention to detail, and unique ability to reinvent her work while retaining continuity, it seems as though she will continue to rise as one of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana's premier artists.

"Summer Set: Audrey Riley" will be opening at Club Soda Thursday, June 11th from 5-8pm with drink and appetizers specials available. The show runs from June 11th to July 6th.

Audrey Riley's work can be seen at the University of Saint Francis' Weatherhead Gallery in their Graduate Thesis Exhibition until July 1.

View more of her work by visiting www.rileyco.com

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