LARRY RIVERS (1923-2002)
Chinese Information: Travel
signed 'Larry Rivers' (lower right)
graphite and colored pencil on paper laminated to canvas
117 x 145 in. (297.2 x 368.3 cm.)
Executed in 1980.
Collection of Joseph Hirshhorn, Washington, D.C., acquired directly from the artist
Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 9 July 2018, lot 227
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Washington D. C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Charlotte, Mint Museum of Art, Larry Rivers, July 1981-June 1982, p. 47-48, no. 36 (illustrated).
Special notice
This lot is offered without reserve.
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Lot Essay

A jazz musician, painter, master draftsman, sculptor, actor, poet, television personality, nightclub MC, filmmaker, author and academic, Larry Rivers’ storied career as an artist is defined by a Romantic innocence and a zeal for innovation. Chinese Information Travel is an exceptional composite of two images. Pictured is a juxtaposition of two reproductions that Rivers located in a book on Chinese painting. The central figures – a grand procession of noblemen and women atop mighty horses – are inspired by an eighth-century handscroll of a royal outing. Surrounding this internal grouping is a landscape pulled from the detail of a hanging scroll entitled The Emperor Ming-huangs Journey to Shu. Rivers carefully interchanges the horses and riders between each of the scrolls whilst simultaneously animating the scene; the product is a work of compositional synergy. The present lot is preceded by a smaller composition study and a series of fourteen freehand figure sketches, some of which Rivers ultimately rejected and others that the artist softened before translating them onto the larger canvas.

Larry Rivers’ oeuvre is defined by his ‘redoing’ of the masters of art. Rivers’ revisions to the work of the masters is inherently playful, bringing historical icons into the contemporary moment and imbuing them with a renewed vivacity. The present lot is a careful study of the aesthetics of Japanese woodblock printmaking, though here the artist magnifies the scale to that of a great masterpiece. Rivers draws this scene meticulously, with delicate passages of light blue, green and red dancing upon the largely black and white canvas as a nod to the vibrant hues of Rivers’ source information. This largescale canvas is indicative of Rivers’ ambition in his use of the grand scale, yet it is also distinctly self-effacing in its unfinished quality, the artist leaving passages of open-ended linework to show the humanity of his hand. Whimsical, yet learned, Chinese Information Travel is a testament to Rivers’ playfulness and a symbol of his reverence to the masters of art history.

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