Larry Rivers 1923 - 2002 American Abstract Expressionism/ New York School, Pop-Art Painters, Writer/Poets
By 1949, when Larry Rivers made his debut as a painter in a solo show at the Jane Street Gallery—Manhattan’s first artists’ cooperative—the twenty-six-year-old second-generation Abstract Expressionist was already the art world’s answer to bebop. A jazz saxophonist boasting a Juilliard pedigree (he was a classmate of Miles Davis), and a painting apprentice of Hans Hofmann and William Baziotes, Rivers could be found at that moment emulating, if rather improbably, Émile Bonnard. The French Post-Impressionist’s coupling of an optical, color-based aesthetic with the established figurative tradition made a strong impression on Rivers. His eclectic and improvisatory sensibility landed him in Paris, where he spent the better part of 1950 writing poetry. Only after satisfying his literary urges (more than just temporary, these would prove lifelong) did Rivers return to New York and take up painting as a full-time profession. By the early 1950s he could count himself among a new generation of “gestural realists,” including Milton Avery, Will Barnet, Robert Goodnough, Grace Hartigan, Jasper Johns, Lester Johnson, Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, Fairfield Porter, and Robert Rauschenberg. Yet Rivers would never fully abandon the impulsive brushwork of his senior Ab Ex colleagues, even as he introduced elements of everyday life and pop culture into his canvases. In the spring of 1953 he relocated from Manhattan to Southampton, where he rented a house with a windowless shed that served as a studio. He had visited the area with friends in the summer of 1951, and had returned within months under less sanguine circumstances, a guest of the Southampton-based painter Fairfield Porter and his family, who, in their home on Main Street, helped him recover from a recent attempt at suicide. [Gregory Galligan]
Rivers first visited Southampton as a guest of Fairfield Porter’s. He went on to buy a house of his own on Little Plains Road.