An Artist’s Retrospective In Just the Right Setting
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Emotions were tender and exuberant at the gala preview of the “Larry Rivers: Early Major Works” exhibition at Guild Hall’s museum in East Hampton.
The exhibition contains paintings and collages from the 1950s and 1960s, a period during which Rivers, who died in 2002, forged a path from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art.
On view are works examining historical subjects — Napoleon, the Civil War, and the Russian Revolution — as well as the artist’s own friends and family. A separate exhibition presents photographs and videos of Rivers at work and play.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” a daughter of the artist, Gwynne Rivers, said, before looking around and breaking into a smile. “There’s so much passion in the work, I imagine him there doing it.”
“I was there watching him do it,” said the writer Barbara Goldsmith, who became friends with the artist in 1957. She also served as a subject for a painting, but only after he had given up his campaign to get her to pose in the nude.
Mrs. Goldsmith is a supporter of the exhibit, and also a lender of two lithographs on paper from the Stones series, which both contain fragments of poetry by Frank O’Hara, such as “The elements of disbelief / are very strong in the morning” — Mrs. Goldsmith’s favorite.
Guild Hall is an appropriate venue for the exhibition, since many of the works were created on the East End. Rivers lived in both Southampton and New York, and was friends with both Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.
Within this circle, Rivers was a multitalented provocateur who played the saxophone, wrote poetry, and sometimes wore two ties. He arrived to parties late, and almost always with a beautiful woman at his side.
“He could turn a boring party into something really interesting,” said Chris Foss, whose parents, Lukas and Cornelia Foss, were friends and collaborators with Rivers.
Mr. Foss continued: “He was so outspoken, but his saving grace was his innate goodness. And he’d say things that just got you.”
Rivers went to many parties at Guild Hall, so on this night, he was missed. But he would have wanted the party to go on. After the preview, guests headed outside for dinner and dancing at Mulford Farm to honor collectors — and sponsors of the Rivers exhibit — Barbara and Richard Lane. The event raised more than $150,000 for Guild Hall’s programs.