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Artists Larry Rivers
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Larry Rivers

American Artist, Sculptor, Filmmaker and Musician

Movements and Styles: Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism

Born: August 1923 - New York

Died: August 2002 - Southampton, Long Island

Larry Rivers Timeline

Quotes

"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
"I now go from this to that and why be ashamed of it? I am talking about the mundane, the everyday Chekhovian stuff of life. Which we pushed away in our early days because we were looking at this blank screen called progress."
Larry Rivers
"I grew up in an era when anything an artist did was supposed to be high art and surprising, a contribution to the field. If you didn't have that, you were supposed to stay in bed. I'm not that way. Sometimes I don't think I take myself seriously enough. Sometimes I hate myself for taking me too seriously."
Larry Rivers
"I believe that any art communicates what you're in the mood to receive."
Larry Rivers
"All my work is part of me, Larry Rivers. I'm not like the head of the Larry Rivers product line - maybe I am."
Larry Rivers
"You know what my worst fear is? That someone will refer to me as the Jewish John Singer Sargent."
Larry Rivers

"The aesthetics of modernism, which we artists took as an absolute religion governing the present and indeed all of the future, now strikes me as I reassess it, as merely having been a style."

Larry Rivers Signature

Synopsis

Larry Rivers was one of the most brash and brilliant figures of the post-war American art-world, an enfant terrible of the New York School, who rebelled against his Abstract Expressionist masters without ever abandoning the bold, gestural painting style he had learned in the painting classes of Hans Hoffman. A brilliant figurative artist who was seduced by the pop culture of the sixties, Rivers was adopted by the Pop Art generation of Warhol et al, but his continuing investment in an idea of the artist's touch, and his unique, expressive compositional style, meant that he never sat comfortably in that category either. While there is no doubting Warhol's assertion that Rivers's personality was "very Pop", he ultimately occupies a tricky and liminal position in the modern art world, on the boundary of abstraction and figuration, the serious and the throwaway, the Modernist and the Pop: of what the critic Clement Greenberg famously distinguished as "Avant-Garde and Kitsch".

Key Ideas

Bringing the iconography of pop culture into his abstract/figurative paintings, Rivers pre-empted the Pop Art explosion of the 1960s, when artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein began to subvert the taboos of Abstract Expressionism with their garish, figurative paintings incorporating the images and messages of a booming consumer culture. Rivers's continued expressive debt to teachers such as Hans Hoffman meant that he was never able to make the full-throttle jump into the world of pop culture that his contemporary Warhol did. In the end, Rivers's struggle was not against the Modernist avant-garde per se, but against the evacuation of the figurative - of all that was particular, sensual, and human - from the modern canvas.
Rivers's work often incorporates text. With his Vocabulary Lesson portrait series he melded a post-Abstract-Expressionist figurative style with whimsical labels and messages, as if undermining the earnest credo that the abstract painting should exist in a space beyond language and rational interpretation. In fact, Rivers cut his teeth in a literary world as much as an artistic one: the friend and sometime lover of Frank O' Hara, he was also the portraitist of other noted poets such as Kenneth Koch, while his early work drew as much inspiration from novels and poetry as it did from painting.
Sex was a major part of Larry Rivers's life. In works such as O' Hara Nude with Boots and Double Portrait of Berdie, we find him smashing sexual taboos: whether that meant the prohibition on gay love in post-war America or on painting your ageing ex-mother-in-law naked. Clearly, some of Rivers's anti-moralizing crusades have aged better than others, and his work in some instances raises significant questions about the instances where culture and the state should interpose on the artist's right to freedom of expression. His unexhibited video-series Growing, documenting the development of his teenage daughters' bodies, has been called child pornography by one of its subjects, and is one example of when Rivers's taboo-busting seems to have overstepped the mark.

Biography

Larry Rivers Photo

Childhood

Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, was born in the Bronx, New York in 1923, speaking only Yiddish until he was six years old. At the age of 17 he was reborn as Larry Rivers, a name given to him in a jazz club where he performed as a professional saxophonist.

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Larry Rivers Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Larry Rivers
Interactive chart with Larry Rivers's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Georges BraqueGeorges Braque
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Hans HofmannHans Hofmann
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock

Personal Contacts

Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Jane FreilicherJane Freilicher
Yves KleinYves Klein
Frank O'HaraFrank O'Hara
Jean TinguelyJean Tinguely

Movements

CubismCubism
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Nouveau RéalismeNouveau Réalisme

Influences on Artist
Larry Rivers
Larry Rivers
Years Worked: 1945 - 2002
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns
Robert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg
David HockneyDavid Hockney

Personal Contacts

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns
Robert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg
David HockneyDavid Hockney

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Ingram

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Greg Thomas

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Ingram
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Greg Thomas
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