Exhibitions

Larry Rivers

An American-European Dialogue

10.11.2019 until 12.01.2020

The American painter, musician and filmmaker Larry Rivers (1923-2002) is regarded as one of the most influential artists on the New York art scene in the 1950s to 1970s. As early as the 1950s, he was one of the pioneers of Pop Art, influencing not only Andy Warhol, its most central figure, but also a large number of other artists in America and Europe. (During his short stay in Germany, he was able to win over BAP singer Wolfgang Niedecken, who then studied with him in New York from 1974.) Many of his own works from those years, on the other hand, reflect the immense influence that important historical works of art and masters as well as some contemporaries have exerted on him. The way in which Larry Rivers, for his part, dealt with painting, and shortly afterwards with assemblages, found objects, and media culture, consistently shows that Larry Rivers primarily used art as a medium of reflection. For Rivers, the immediate quotation is significant, whereby the object and the manner of painting are as it were transparent and are present as components within his own, new pictorial context. Painting and quotation are sometimes only loosely connected, which makes the adaptation all the clearer. In doing so, he has often crossed traditional boundaries.

Initially linked to Abstract Expressionism, from the late 1940s onwards he increasingly turned to figuration and, from the 1950s, also dealt with the materials gypsum, cement, metal. Early on, Larry Rivers also explored French painting of the late 19th century. He stayed between 1961 and 1962 in Paris, where he met Jean Tinguley and Nikki de Saint Phalle. In the 1960s, he expanded his range of artistic expressive possibilities by incorporating elements of wood or cardboard into his works or using electric light.

After 40 years, the Ludwig Museum Koblenz presents Larry River's first solo exhibition in Germany. The exhibition, which was planned in close collaboration with the Larry Rivers Foundation, opens with numerous loans from museum and private collections from the United States a glimpse of the artist's versatile oeuvre, in which current themes such as sexuality and society, politics and racism still find their place today. The focus here is on Rivers' preoccupation with traditional French painting at the end of the 19th century in tension with Abstract Expressionism, as well as the artistic dialogue between Larry Rivers and the poet Frank O'Hara and his artist colleagues and friends Willem de Kooning, and Jean Tinguely, whose central works accentuate the collection of the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz. Rivers is concerned with a crossover of art, with crossing the boundaries from two-dimensional painting to the object, and with the sheer desire to make it visible as a mental and conceptual foil of one's own art by quoting from other contexts.

The encounter with other artists and creatives of his time was just as decisive as the historical models from the French school of Impressionism to Rembrandt. For precisely this reason, the exhibition does not see itself as a retrospective, but rather explores precisely this dialogical relationship of tension. The exhibition thus aims to cast a conceptually focused perspective on Larry Rivers' art, which sees itself as a dialogue and bridge between American and French positions. In this way, it less illustrates the shift from Paris to New York as a new art metropolis in the course of the 1950s, but rather serves to explore the ambivalent networking in both pictorial and work concepts. With some 70 works, she will present a range of drawings, paintings, objects, assemblages and prints from the Larry Rivers Foundation, NY, as well as from important American museums and collections. The exhibition is u.a. funded by the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation and is being developed in cooperation with the Larry Rivers Foundation, New York.

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive scientific catalogue (German/English). Authors:  Hans Belting, Rainer Gross, Lorand Hegyi (Musée d'art moderne, Saint-Etienne), David Joel (Larry Rivers Foundation), Beate Reifenscheid (Ludwig Museum, Koblenz). Publisher: Edition Cantz, Berlin.


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