The Tibor de Nagy Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of late paintings and works on paper by the celebrated artist Larry Rivers. It marks the second exhibition since the gallery started to represent his Estate in 2008.
The majority of the works assembled were done in the last two decades of the artist’s life, between the 1980s and late 1990s. They follow his ongoing exploration of a wide and disparate range of subject matter, including the legacy of the Holocaust and themes of remembrance. He completed a series of works on his family, and portraits of artists he admired, Balthus, Picasso, Mondrian, among them. He also paid homage to his heroes from the Golden Age of cinema in a group of affectionate portraits of Fred Astaire, Groucho Marx, and Charlie Chaplin.
Rivers’s late works are highly personal and biographical and show an artist who explored new subject matter with energy and passion. Rivers, always a veracious reader, was something of an autodidact. His habit of steeping himself in whatever subject caught his interest only grew with age: history, the Russian Revolution, plight of the Jews in Europe, film, art history. He jumped headlong into a subject, learning as much as he could, and then set out to create a series about it. His interest in history and art history, as examples, allowed the artist to connect with his past. Increasingly present in the work are references to memory and mortality. John Yau writes in the catalogue essay:
"Rivers understood time’s devastations and in many of his late works he registered them with a firm but sensitive eye and hand. He explored the pleasure and sorrow of memory, even as he acknowledged time would eventually erase them. He understood that the present buried the past, and that it was up to us to remember the Holocaust for the next generation, however difficult and painful that might be. This is what we have to recognize about Rivers’s late work. He wasn’t thinking about his reputation, and whether or not he would be forgotten. He was chronicling what it meant to be an aged man living in time—both personal and historical—and all that it stirred up in him."
Rivers was born in the Bronx as Yitzhok Loiza Grossberg. He changed his name to Larry Rivers in 1940 as he worked 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 exhibited and collected widely throughout the United States. 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 de Young Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Within the last two years, seminal works of his were included in a major survey on Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum.