I’ll try to put it another way,” he said. “When I look at a thing, it isn’t love of reality, or feeling for objects or people, or love or death or anything like that that I’m trying to express. It’s the looking itself that interests me. Working from that is my way of painting.
(Larry Rivers in Conversations with Artists, Selden Rodman 1961)
Tibor de Nagy Gallery presents the exhibition Larry Rivers: (RE)Appropriation, consisting of over 20 paintings and sculptures by Rivers spanning half a century, from the mid-1950s to the late 1990s. The first major survey of Rivers’ work in New York in over a decade, the exhibition includes Rivers’ famous nude portrait of Frank O’Hara in boots, and highlights the artist’s strong interest in appropriation as well as the broad range of inventive methods and materials he employed over the course of his career. Works in the exhibition range from intimate graphite drawings to collage, large-scale paintings, life-size sculptures, and foam-sculpted relief-paintings.
This is the fourth Larry Rivers exhibition since the gallery began representing the Rivers Estate in 2008. Comprising loans from private collections and works from the Larry Rivers Foundation and Estate, the exhibition will be on view September 6 through October 29, 2017.
Rivers was a Bronx native who lived and worked between his 14th Street loft and Southampton studio. Tibor de Nagy’s (RE)Appropriations exhibition presents vital works from Rivers’ diverse creative oeuvre and resonates with the gallery’s new Lower East Side location at 15 Rivington Street, where it has been located since June 2017.
Says Andrew Arnot, owner of Tibor de Nagy Gallery, “This is an exciting and important exhibition for us to present for our autumn 2017 debut on the Lower East Side. Rivers was a larger-than-life downtown figure, and showing his work in this space, at this time, and in this neighborhood, makes so much sense. Larry had an omnivorous eye, and that is apparent in every work we have on view. To observe the way his work evolved and changed over five decades, and the way he pioneered new techniques, is thought- provoking and inspiring.”
At first glance, Larry Rivers’ diverse and varied visual modalities may appear disparate. Almost immediately, Larry Rivers developed a unique artistic language of interdisciplinary practices. From his early flirtations with Abstract Expressionism, Rivers would go on to trail-blaze the appropriation of pop imagery and incorporate newly available materials into his working vocabulary. Materiality was but one aspect of the artist’s heterogeneous interests; others were history, poetry, politics, sexuality, fashion, and the private and public spheres.
An erudite and autodidactic thread runs through his visual investigations. Employing such tropes as copying masterworks and “vocabulary lessons” as a basis for art-making, he often returned to those works as generative for his own point of departure. With the aid of historical distance and curated juxtapositions this exhibition re-contextualizes and clarifies the interdisciplinary nature of Rivers’ work.
Rivers was born in the Bronx as Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg. He changed his name to Larry Rivers in 1940 as he moonlighted as a jazz musician while studying music theory and composition at the Juilliard School of Music. He began painting in 1945, studying with Hans Hofmann and at New York University. The artist’s work has been widely exhibited and collected throughout the world. Within the last four years, seminal works were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Brooklyn Museum. His paintings are included in major museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tate Modern, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Centre Pompidou.