Larry Rivers was one of the most original, exuberant, and irrepressible members of the New York School. It is difficult to contextualize his more than 50 year contribution to the arts, and strong arguments are made in favor of him being the “Godfather of Pop Art”. Few artists of the twentieth century rival Rivers' versatility and desire to experiment, as evidenced by his ability to work in different genres and with a diverse range of media. Born Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg in 1923, Rivers studied music theory and composition at the Juilliard School of Music and initially pursued a career as a jazz saxophonist, playing regularly in New York City nightclubs. In 1945, he began exploring painting and by 1947 was enrolled in Hans Hofmann’s school of painting in New York and Provincetown. He attended New York University from 1948 to 1951 where he studied under William Baziotes. Around this time Rivers met Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Grace Hartigan, and other Abstract Expressionists whose active style of painting would prove to be Rivers' first major influence.
While Rivers’ oeuvre addresses abstraction, his primary concerns are with the recognizable and as such he often challenged perceptions of abstraction with what he called “a smorgasbord of the recognizable”. Many such works feature popular imagery, family members and friends, the artist himself, and American history. His early masterpiece Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1953 was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, making it his first major museum acquisition. In 1957 Rivers collaborated with Frank O’Hara to create Stones, the first publication for Tatyana Grossman’s Universal Limited Art Editions. In 1963 he joined Marlborough Gallery.
Throughout the 70, 80s, and 90s, Rivers' works formed the basis for numerous retrospectives. Building upon earlier experimentations with three-dimensional works, he developed a formula for creating three-dimensional relief paintings which he called Constructs. His irreverent and often humorous handling of politics, history, fashion, and sex in his later works created much controversy and affirmed his position late into his career as an innovator and artistic pioneer. With Fashion Show scheduled at Marlborough Gallery in the fall of 2002, Rivers continued working on fashion paintings up until three months before his death in August of that year.
Larry Rivers is represented in many museums around the world, including: Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris, France; Tate, London, UK; The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Jewish Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In Washington, D.C. he is represented at the National Gallery of Art and The Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden.