Larry Rivers

Born 17 August 1923, Bronx, New York, United States. Died 14 August 2002, Southampton, New York, United States.
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Larry Rivers Biography

A key transitional figure in postwar art, Larry Rivers imaginatively integrated the gestural spontaneity of abstract expressionism and the punchy irony of Pop.

Yitzroch Loisa Grossberg was born in the Bronx borough of New York City, on August 17, 1923 to Jewish Immigrants from the Ukraine. In 1940, he began working as a jazz saxophonist, taking the stage name Larry Rivers. In 1945-46, he attended the Juilliard School; while there, Rivers met fellow classmate Miles Davis, who would become a lifelong friend. After leaving Juilliard, Rivers took up painting, studying at the Hans Hoffman School and New York University. With his early works, including Burial (1951) and Washington Crossing the Delaware (1953), Rivers asserted that figuration, narrative, and historical engagement could be part of contemporary art practice. His Vocabulary Lesson series prefigured Pop art’s use of appropriated text and images from mass-circulated media. Beginning in 1961, Rivers took up residence in the Hotel Chelsea, whose notable residents also included Allen Ginsberg, Stanley Kubrick, Leonard Cohen and Diego Rivera. In 1965, Rivers’s first major survey traveled between the Rose Art Museum, Pasadena Art Museum, Jewish Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Over the ensuing decades, Rivers also experimented with sculpture, video and neon. His most comprehensive retrospective to date opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art just a few months before his death on August 14, 2002 in Southampton, New York.

Rivers’s work can be seen in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, among many other major public institutions.

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