Carin Riley was born in New York City and raised on the South Shore of Long Island. Her mother was an innovative interior designer and from a very early age, Riley was exposed to a modernist and Asian aesthetic. Her father and grandfather were both accomplished stonemasons and she loved to play with cement as a child, traces of the simple grey forms that she made from it evident even now in her drawings and paintings. Riley attended the School of Visual Arts, New York in the 1970s where she studied painting. Minimalism and Postminimalism were the prevailing styles and she was fortunate in her teachers: Robert Ryman, Robert Mangold, Richard Serra, Brice Marden and others. Richard Artschwager was also a mentor, who notably and presciently merged art and design, affirming what she naturally gravitated toward. After SVA, Riley received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1973.
An abstractionist who frequently works on paper, her production has been characterized by elegance, etherealness, fluidity and a beguiling reserve. Dreams, she says, have been an important source of imagery for her although she has a roving, imaginative eye that is also captivated by what she sees in the world. Her palette is often restricted to a scale of grey, from white, near white to black combined with earth shades, although she has explored more colors of late. Her configurations are composed of pirouetting lines and distinctive shapes that she surrounds with abundant space. While she remains an abstract artist, she has experimented with the more figurative, her newest work sensitively poised between the abstract and the representational.
Riley has worked as a photographer, the medium integral to her practice as a whole. Working independently and for Condé Nast, her photographs have often focused on still lifes. Featured in major publications, many are included in the Conde Nast photography archives. Her photographic projects have taught her a great deal about light and dark, about gradients of tones and fine calibrations as well as composition and design.
Around four years ago, she turned almost exclusively to painting and drawing, her motifs often based on the still lifes that have so long engaged her. She was featured in “Out of Line,” a group show at Slag Gallery in Chelsea in 2010 and exhibited in “Unfreedom” at the Smudajescheck Galerie in Ulm, Germany in 2011. She had a solo show at the Weber Fine Art Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut in June, 2013 and a solo, “Adaptive Traits,” at the Smudajescheck Galerie in September-October, 2013. Her work is in several private and public collections including that of the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection in Little Rock, Arkansas and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. Riley is represented by Weber Fine Art Gallery and the Smudajescheck Galerie.