In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the works of Larry Rivers parlayed a confidence that at once embraced yet distanced itself from the Abstract Expressionists. Sweeping strokes pigmented with rosy, flesh-colored tones, and accented with bright vibrant dabs of color create a striking expressionistic effect across the canvas. In the paintings from this period, Rivers patented his "erasure" technique, whereby he would carefully smudge the paint, meticulously leaving voids of paint or pattern scattered throughout, and creating a sophisticated and painterly abstraction.
The scene renders what is arguably an amalgamation and celebration of the three most important people in Rivers' life at that time. 1957 was a critical year for Rivers as his mother-in-law, and muse, Birdie passed away. A plump and matronly model, Birdie was frequently depicted seated with legs crossed in a large wicker chair, which allowed Rivers to expand beyond abstraction and explore the confines of a figural composition. The thick and masculine black boots worn by the figure belonged to Rivers' dearest friend, Frank O'Hara, a poet who inspired Rivers. Significantly, the two often created works responding to one another. The seated figure is ostensibly Rivers' wife Augusta. She assumes Birdie's traditional pose, framed in O'Hara's boots, and is identifiable by the shoulder-length, straight black hair framing her face. While at once figurative, the composition of Untitled, 1957, heralds Rivers' maturing style which lassoes a narrative in which objects and figures from the artist's life are juxtaposed throughout in a painterly patchwork collage.
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