many rivers to cross

Brilliant. But relegated to the scrapheap. A dust bin discard. Just another tormented, energetic man who became an old wild man. Part of a weird process that maybe invented pop art. Maybe. You know the type. Caught between a passion for fame and for art, between competing sexual content that informed his art, between a host of personal, social and psychological polarities in which his work made the best of these conflicts without ever really resolving them. To a girl, not exactly the best boyfriend material, and to a guy, not exactly a typical gay. Part poet painter, part painterly realist, a Donald Kuspit “new old master” and part proto-popster.

---The Greatest Homosexual 1964 source Ostensibly not homosexual although his boyfriend the poet Frank O’Hara might find the argument flimsy. It doesn’t matter, this twice married , father of five libertine, in many ways best expressed gay sensibilities. Be it his wry parody of David’s The Emperor Napoleon in his Study at the Tuileries ,1812 (above), --- Read More:

…He was born Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg, in the Bronx, New York in 1923 to Samuel and Sonya Grossberg. In 1940 he began a career as a professional Jazz Saxophonist. He soon changed his name, after being introduced as “Larry Rivers and the Mudcats” at a New York City club. In 1942 he enlisted in the United States Army Air corps, but within a year was honorably discharged from the armed forces for medical reasons. In 1944 he studied music theory and composition at the Juilliard School of Music, where he met and became friends with Miles Davis and Charlie Parker….

…In 1950 he met Frank O’Hara. This same year he took his first trip to Europe spending 8 months in Paris reading and writing poetry. 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. …

Rivers. The Last Civil War Veteran

…During this time he also appeared on the television game show “The $64,000.00 Question” where along with another contestant, they both won, each receiving $32,000.00. In 1958 he spent a month in Paris and played in various jazz bands….

Rivers does not really fit the bill of aging youth of the avant-garde. But he does remind of Modigliani, Rivers also willing to parry and exchange blows against nihilism and falling into the game of who can make the best sum of destructions and who can collapse the human figure mosre aggressively. Rivers work does not have the trease of being death informed, and  though a wacky type, the work is not of rage or inherently negative. There is an acceptance of the control of instinct as indicator of a willingness to be truly human, part of the construction of the spiritual being.

Rivers. Washington Crossing the Delaware.

…In 1959 he painted Cedar Bar Menu I and II. This same year, adapted from a Jack Kerouac play, along with Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, David Amram, Richard Bellamy, Alice Neel, Sally Gross, Pablo Frank, with narration by Kerouac, Rivers appeared in the film “Pull My Daisy.”

Rivers continued to cultivate a strong interest in collaboration, working with the poet Kenneth Koch on the collection of picture-poems New York 1959-1960. In 1961 he met Jean Tinguely; together they produced several collaborative works, including the “The Friendship of America and France” shown at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. …

Rivers had a certain respect for the human experience, even if it was obscured by all the flaws, the pathological self-indulgence, the obvious insecurity, like a sore he could not stop picking at, there was an inner strength that permitted him to resist the temptation of complete submergence within the experience of form. Something nostalgic. Some resistance to the hardness and coldness of a modern formalism with all its implied suggestions of a failed humanity. Maybe a jewish sense of the human that goes way b

nearly a fossil when juxtaposed to the push to modernist formalism that surrounded him.

---Bedroom 1955 Larry Rivers--- Read More:

…In 1976 he traveled to Russia at the invitation of the Union of Soviet Artists where he lectured in several cities on contemporary American art. Traveling with is son Steven Rivers, the two documented this trip; making videotapes along the way. Continuing to experiment with various mixed media, Rivers began producing works generated by combining color carbon paper, a technique that he demonstrated as a guest on the Dick Cavett show. …Read More:


In the film Rivers tells the girls to take off their clothes and then zooms in on their breasts from various angles. He interviews them about how they feel about their breasts and whether boys have started noticing them. In some scenes Clarice Rivers appears with her daughters, displaying her own breasts and talking about them.

In a voice-over Rivers says that he made the film over several years in spite of “the raised eyebrows of society in general and specific friends and even my daughters — they kept sort of complaining.” On screen both girls appear self-conscious as they grow older, and Emma in particular hardly speaks.

Clarice Rivers said in an interview that she supports her daughter’s effort to get the film back, though she describes it more benignly as a document of the girls’ development.

“What Larry said was that it would belong to them, as a record that when they got older they could look back at,” she said. “It wasn’t a huge thing. It’s become huge, because they can’t get back what was given to them.”

Ms. Tamburlini, though, said she has spent several years in therapy trying to deal with the effect of her father’s behavior. Read More:

…Speaking of hands, Rivers once slashed his wrists after having his romantic advances rejected by painter Jane Freilicher and was nursed back to health in Southampton by the honorable Fairfield Porter. For a crowd that had partied with de Kooning and Pollock, Freilicher and Porter are curious New York School favorites. Porter was kind and Freilicher has a reputation for being witty.

These tidbits would be valuable enough, but Rivers in confession mode tells us all the sordid details of his various marriages and flings, gay and otherwise. We learn more than we really want to know. Heroin and speed played a part, too. But what else can you expect from someone who started out as a jazz musician?

My point here is not that the autobiography is worthless because it is gossipy. Everyone loves gossip. Instead this confession may illustrate the self-centered bravado that caused Rivers to have so many enemies. Honesty is not necessarily truth. Normally I tend to think that the art and the artist illuminate each other. But here the persona and/or personality block the art. Read More:

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Modern Arts/Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *