Left: Larry Rivers, The Greatest Homosexual, 1964, oil, collage, and pencil on canvas, 80 x 61“. Right: Larry Rivers, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1953, oil, graphite, and charcoal on linen, 83 x 111”.

Larry Rivers

Corcoran Gallery of Art

When Barbara Rose started shopping the idea of a Larry Rivers retrospective, MoMA and the Whitney turned her down. She ended up at the Corcoran, and it’s a perfect fit. I’d guess that outside Washington the Corcoran is still thought of as home to the knuckle-under specialists who lost their nerve over Mapplethorpe; despite braver leadership since 1989, it nevertheless often appears as though the museum is attempting to cozy up to risk without getting into any real trouble.

With “Larry Rivers: Art and the Artist,” the Corcoran hangs its hopes on an enfant terrible who’s pushing eighty, sporting both earring and hearing aid. The bargain struck by director David C. Levy is that he’ll do his best to keep his former bandmate in the history books, straight-facedly crediting Rivers with “a more complex and subtle vision of pop” than Johns, Warhol, and Lichtenstein, so long as his pal doesn’t mind

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