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Spanish Painter José De Rivera: Discover the Highlights of the Sculpture of José De Rivera

17.09.2021
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Spanish Painter José De Rivera

Jose de Rivera was born in Louisiana. He grew up near New Orleans on the sugar plantation where his father worked. De Rivera studied plantation blacksmithing and machine tooling, skills he later used to create art. After graduating from high school in 1922, he moved to Chicago. There he worked during the day and took drawing lessons in the evening. Around the same time, he changed his last name to the maiden name of his maternal grandmother. In 1926, he married Rose Covelli, and together they had a child.

In the early 1930s, Jose de Rivera began creating sculptures and spent a year traveling throughout North Africa and Europe studying art. He then moved to New York, where he established himself as an artist. By the late 1930s, he was working for the Federal Art Project of the Plant Progress Office in the sculpture department, creating sculptures for public spaces. Among the works he created for the Federal Art Project was the “Flight” installation at Newark Airport.

Jose de Rivera, a Hispanic artist, served in the Army Aviation Corps during World War II, then returned to his artistic career. His first solo exhibition took place in 1946 at the Mortimer Levitt Gallery in New York. In 1955, he divorced Rose Covelli and soon married Lita J. Geronimo. De Rivera died in 1985 in New York.

When the architect of the National Museum of History and Technology wanted to create an open-air sculpture for the opening of a new museum in the mid 1960s, he recommended Jose de Rivera sculpture. Rivera was a renowned sculptor known for his abstract forms, kinetic elements, and design expertise for public spaces.

De Rivera created an “infinity statue” that stands on the side of a shopping center in a building called the National Museum of American History. In 1997, after de Rivera’s death, his son donated some tools used to create the “infinity sculpture” to the museum’s collections.

Important Information about Jose De Rivera

Important Information about Jose De Rivera

Jose de Rivera, an internationally renowned sculptor whose sleek, rotating Infinity stands outside the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, died of pneumonia at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, according to hospital officials.

  • According to relatives, de Rivera continued to work daily in his studio in New York until he was hospitalized. A curved shape revolving on a black granite pylon, Infinity was the first abstract sculpture in a shopping mall, and as such was controversial because it was not strictly representative as the original plans for the museum required.
  • Orreri – a skeleton globe used to show the movement of celestial bodies – was planned for the space behind the museum’s south entrance, and after officials selected Jose de Rivera’s work, architect Walker O. Kane insisted that it could be viewed as “orreri of the 21st century.”
  • Rivera chose to leave these discussions to the discretion of others. In an interview with The Washington Post shortly before the piece was set in 1967, Rivera said he viewed the piece as “just an abstract form.”
  • “When I make an abstract sculpture, I give it an abstract name. Then they can discuss it whatever they want,” said Jose de Rivera. Like the paradoxical Möbius strip, Infinity has only one outer surface. On the one hand, the sculpture resembles a symbol of infinity, on the other, a circle surrounded by an ellipse.
  • The largest abstract sculpture commissioned by the government up to that time, Infinity, was hand-built in stainless steel by de Rivera and his sculptor Roy Gussow. He was paid $104,520.
  • Jose de Rivera’s construction has been exhibited at world exhibitions in San Francisco, New York (1940 and 1964), Seattle, and Brussels, and other examples of his work are on display in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Museum of Modern Art. Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
  • Jose de Rivera was born in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1904. He studied drawing with John W. Norton in Chicago, and then was associated with the Federal Art Project of the Office of Progress in New York.

He taught at Brooklyn College and North Carolina State University School of Design and was a sculpture critic at Yale University.

De Rivera began his artistic career in Chicago, studying drawing with the monumental painter John Norton. Here he held his first solo exhibition in 1930.

jose de rivera sculptures

He joined the Federal Art Project Office of Work Progress during the Depression, but then remained anonymous until he sold the work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His sculptures of graceful curved shapes in stainless steel or polished bronze are considered the standard of conceptual purity and craftsmanship.

jose de rivera sculpture artist

“Much of De Rivera’s finest sculpture appears to be made of mercury rather than steel,” wrote the late Times art critic Henry J. Seldis in 1972. Seldis said that “his amazing aesthetic spirituality (combined) with manual training in the machine shop led De Rivera to a purposeful way of expression.”

Some of his most famous works, Jose de Rivera construction, are sculptures commissioned for the American Pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair, and one commissioned for the 1964 World’s Fair, which still stands today in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens.

Perhaps his most famous work is a rotating stainless steel sculpture, completed in 1967, which stands in front of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of History and Technology in Washington.

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