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Larry Rivers

also known as Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg

artist , filmmaker , musician

An artist, musician, and filmmaker, Larry Rivers, one of America's most important postwar artists and considered by many to be the "Godfather of Pop Art". Rivers resided and maintained studios in New York City, Southampton, New York (on Long Island) and Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Background

Larry Rivers was born on August 17, 1923 in the Bronx, New York, as Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg to Samuel and Sonya Grossberg, Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. In 1940 he changed his name, after being introduced as “Larry Rivers and the Mudcats” at a New York City club.

Education

Studied music theory and composition. Larry met and became friends with Miles Davis and Charlie Parker there.

Since graduating New York University in 1951, he received honorary doctorates from several other institutions.

Career

In 1940 Rivers begins his career as a professional jazz saxophonist. He soon changes his name, after being introduced as “Larry Rivers and the Mudcats” at a New York City club.

In 1942 Larry Rivers was enlisted in the United States Army Air corps, but within a year was honorably discharged from the armed forces for medical reasons.

From 1945 to 1946 he studies music theory and composition at the Juilliard School of Music along with Miles Davis, with whom he remained friends until Davis's death in 1991.

In 1945, fellow musician Jack Freilicher showes Larry Rivers a painting by Georges Braque and in that same year after seeing the Cubist work, Rivers starts painting. From 1947 to 1948 he studies in Hans Hofmann’s School of painting. In 1949 he has his first one-man exhibition at the Jane Street Gallery in New York.

Later he continues his studies and in 1951 he earns his BA in art education from New York University. At this time Rivers is a pop artist of the New York School, reproducing everyday objects of American popular culture as art.

In the 1950s, Larry Rivers receives both positive and negative critical attention for his appropriation of famous paintings in his own works of Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, Olympia, by Édouar Manet and paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn.

In 1954 he has his first exhibition of sculptures at the Stable Gallery in New York. Year later he wins 3rd prize in the Corcoran Gallery national painting competition for “Self-Figure.”

During the early 1960s Rivers lives in the Chelsea Hotel, a famous hotel with artists such as Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and the circle around Andy Warhol's Factory. In 1965 he experiences his first comprehensive retrospective exhibition in five American museums$ The History of the Russian Revolution was included in these exhibitions. The History of the Russian Revolution, was later on extended permanent display at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.

In 1967 he travels to central Africa to film the television documentary “Africa and I” with Pierre Dominique Gaisseau. This same year he participated in the Museum of Modern Art’s memorial exhibition for poet and curator Frank O’Hara. In 1968 he returned with Gaisseau to Africa to complete the documentary film.

During 1970s Rivers starts working on many videotape projects, including the infamous Tits, and also works in neon. In 1976 he travels to Russia at the invitation of the Union of Soviet Artists where he lectures in several cities on contemporary American art.

From 1982 to 1984 Larry Rivers works on the “History of Matzoh (the Story of the Jews)” which was subsequently exhibited at The Jewish Museum, New York.

In 1992, Harper Collins, New York, publishes Larry Rivers’ Autobiography. At the same time Rivers’ is also the subject of several scholarly monographs and videos, and a doctoral dissertation.

In 1997 Rivers' early interest in fashion reemerged and continued as a theme in his solo exhibition at Marlborough Gallery in New York in 1999. Two years later Marlborough presents a second “Fashion Show”.

In 2002 Larry Rivers was as busy as ever with a major retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. With another “Fashion Show” scheduled at Marlborough Gallery in the fall, Rivers continued working on fashion paintings. He continues working on the third "Fashion Show" up until his death on August 14, 2002.

Works

  • painting

    • Madame Butterfly

    • French Money (Nero)

    • 1979 Wedding Photo (Color Coded)

    • On the Phone

    • Hommage to Picasso

    • Groucho Dancing on a Stool

    • Untitled

    • Niki de Saint Phalle

    • Cubism Today (Roy & Dorothy Lichtenstein)

    • Vocabulary Lesson (Polish)

    • Fashion and the Fish

    • The Next to Last Confederate

    • Jack Kerouac

    • Living at the Movies

    • Self Portrait

    • Parts Of The Face (French Vocabulary Lesson)

    • Three Camels

    • Orange Valentine Number Two

    • Cedar Bar Menu I

    • Astaire in the Air

    • The Journey

    • The Wall

    • Bar Mitzvah Photographic Painting

    • Divers

    • Drugstore

    • The King and Queen

    • Rainbow Rembrandt

    • 40th Regiment (Boston Massacre)

    • Stencil Camel

    • French Money

    • V8

    • Next to Last Confederate Soldier

    • Popcorn

    • Dutch Masters Cigar Box

    • Tanfastic

Membership

Member National Academy of Design (associate).

Connections

Married Augusta Berger, 1945 (div.). 2 sons; married Clarice Price, 1961. 2 children.

father:
Samuel Grossberg

mother:
Sonya Grossberg

son:
Steven Rivers - United States

Steven is a son from his first wife Augusta Berger.

first wife:
Augusta Berger

Married in 1945, had one son Steven. Rivers also adopted Berger's son from a previous relationship, Joseph, and reared both children after the couple divorced.

second wife:
Clarice Price - Wales - school teacher

Married in 1961, had two daughters together, Gwynne and Emma. After six years, they separated.

daughter:
Gwynne Rivers - United States

Gwynne is a daughter from his second wife Clarice Price.

daughter:
Emma Rivers - United States

Emma is a daughter from his second wife Clarice Price.

friend:
Frank O’Hara

Beginning in 1950 and continuing until Frank’s death in July of 1966, Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara cultivated a uniquely creative friendship that produced numerous collaborations, as well as inspired paintings and poems. Beyond these more publicly recognized works, the two friends maintained a 15-year correspondence, exchanging numerous documents mostly comprised of letters with some poetry.