PRINT October 1977

The ‘Terrible’ Larry Rivers

When this you see remember me.

–Gertrude Stein

“I WILL NOT,” ANNOUNCED CLEM GREENBERG several years ago, “be seated opposite that Rivers throughout dinner.” The Rivers picture in question was The Ace of Spades; the host, and owner of the painting, was William Rubin. Greenberg’s declaration summed up nicely his distaste for a painter whom he had once praised lavishly in an article written for The Nation in 1949 and whose later work he dismissed as “terrible.” Indeed, given Greenberg’s often rigorous taste, the art of Larry Rivers could not meet the required standards of malerische-ness, or the taste for avant-garde work which achieved a consensus among sophisticated collectors and critics of the late 1950s and 1960s. (It is said that Rubin was so taken aback by Greenberg’s rejection that soon after the dinner the offending canvas was “de-acquisitioned.”)

The truth is that Rivers is often

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.