“We were excited about trying new materials,” exclaimed Bridget Riley. “We all wanted the new!” Like other artists who emerged in the 1960s, Riley was enchanted by plexiglass, a lightweight, shatter-proof alternative to glass that was then growing in availability. Invented in the 1930s and further developed by the military during World War II, it became one of the most widely used of the plastics that dominated the commodity culture of the postwar period.
Many artists experimented with plexiglass’s transparency and malleability and with its ability to signal the futuristic innovations of the space age. Their adventurousness was matched by that of an enterprising new generation of print publishers who often facilitated artists’ access to industrial materials and technologies. These publishers also helped artists make their work more accessible by collaborating with them on the production of multiples—sculptural objects created in large, affordable editions. A new type of artwork, multiples reflected the democratic ideals and playful spirit of the era.