Carin Riley was born in New York City and raised on the South Shore of Long Island. Her mother was an innovative designer and Riley was exposed to a modernist and Asian aesthetic from an early age. Her father and grandfather were both stonemasons and as a child she was fascinated by the elements of the trade, including the plumb line and experimenting with cement; traces of the simple grey shapes that she made from it evident even now in her visual vocabulary. 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, among whom were Robert Ryman, Robert Mangold, Richard Serra, and Brice Marden. Richard Artschwager was also a mentor, who famously and presciently merged art and design, underscoring what she naturally gravitated toward and what she had already learned at home. After earning a BFA, Riley received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1973.
An abstractionist who frequently works on paper, her practice has been characterized by elegance, etherealness, and a beguiling reserve. Her palette is often restricted to tones of grey, from near white to black combined with earth tones, although she has explored more colors of late. Her configurations are composed of fluid, pirouetting lines and distinct shapes and she allows them abundant space in which to expand. While she remains an abstract artist, she has experimented with the more figurative, her newest work at times sensitively poised between the abstract and the representational.
Riley participated in Women in Art this winter (2020) at Weber Fine Art, and will have a solo exhibition at Smudajescheck Galerie in Munich in the spring of 2021. Riley was in Prophetic Diagrams at George and Jorgen in London in 2013, Devotion at Catinca Tabacaru in New York in 2015, Politicizing Space (curated by Charlotta Kotik) at City University, NYC, and Spinners, Weavers, and Warriors at Geary Contemporary in New York City in 2018. She has had regular solo exhibitions at Weber Fine Arts in Greenwich, Connecticut since 2013 and at Smudajescheck in Ulm since 2012. Riley has been reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail, Sculpture Magazine, and ArtCritical. Her work is in several private and public collections including the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation, the Sally and Werner Kamarsky Collection, in Little Rock, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, and the Museum Ulm in Germany. Riley is represented by Weber Fine Art Gallery, Connecticut, and the Smudajescheck Galerie, Munich, Germany