5 May-31 July 2005.
Larry Rivers is three years younger than De Niro. They were friends. They both studied with Hans Hofmann, the influential New York downtown teacher. They both showed first at the Jane Street Gallery, were part of the Jane Street groups, one of the first co-operatives founded by Nell Blaine, another Hofmann student.
The semi-abstract De Niro had a small audience of devoted admirers, most of them fellow-artists, critics and poets. He did not have it easy. Not an outgoing person, he preferred a secluded and meditative life in his studios in America and southern France. He was a true painterly romantic painter searching for ever more melodious forms inside the painting. While he was a master to the knowledgeable, abroad he became known only as the father of a famous movie star.
Rivers, born Isaac Grossberg in the Bronx, was an experienced saxophone player before he went to study painting with Hofmann on the suggestion of Nell Blaine. Larry the rambunctious, was of course the born performer. He came to the fore as a painter in the 1950s with figurative paintings of explicitly nude women in rude poses oddly painted in a tight and gauche impressionist manner. His hand got looser and more lavish when he began to paint his mother-in-law, Long Island socialites, and his first lover, the poet Frank OHara, without their clothes on. His brilliant manipulation of American or general historical icons "Washington crossing the Delaware" for instance, and his depiction of brand-name objects etc. earned him the denomination of Pop artist. His paintings are in a rough staccato rhythm, fragmented jazzily, in bright pastel colour, sometimes wittingly allusive, and always with a live-wire funky New York attack. People who understand little about contemporary art consider him their favourite contemporary artist.
The late paintings, pastels and styrofoam reliefs, with their quotes from history, pop and jazz stars, are done with the old tough will and wit, but lack the hasty nervous energy of his previous periods. A double self-portrait sketch of a sharp crotchety hipster scrutinising himself without pity is devastatingly pungent. Heres to you, old Larry! Galleria Il Gabbiano, Via della Frezza 51, tel. 063227049. Edith Schloss