Kenny Rivero

I make paintings, drawings, I assemble sculptures and installations, and above all I am
invested in telling stories. The narratives are based both in reality and in fiction.
In the paintings and drawings, I collapse spaces, figures, and geographies in such a way that allow for a fluidity of space and time, and a flexibility between what is real and what is not. In the sculptures and installations, I spatially manage and assemble domestic material, and various collections of my own detritus, in order to physically access the worlds that I am referencing in the two dimensional work.
Although the work I have included in this application does not embody the entire range
of what I produce, I am offering this collection of paintings and drawings as the clearest
representation of the content my practice is currently negotiating.
Materially, the surface accumulations, patinas, and the historical aura of reclaimed material allow me to reflect on the past (my own and that of others), and engage with it in a tangible way.
I have collections of salvaged material that eventually become collage elements in my
paintings and the supports for my drawings. In reclaimed material I’m interested in how the energies and identities contained by certain objects and surfaces can come together to form new things with new pasts and flexible futures.
The accumulation of paint resulting from the restoration of public and domestic spaces,
discarded industrial material, or the salvaged blank pages from old books, are catalysts for the painting-objects I make and the stories I tell. As a child, I would intentionally hack away at my bedroom wall to reveal evidence of the apartment’s past lives and imagine the stories linked to the colors I would find. Paint chips from the apartment I grew up in are a common material in my work and my practice owes a great deal to the physical evidence of history and memory.
My goal is to excavate and reconstruct the histories and identities I have been conditioned to understand as absolute, in order to develop new ways to intimately engage the world. I explore ideas of Dominican-American identity, socio-geographic solidarity, cultural and familial expectations, race, and masculinity. I am also interested in how these various cultural and social vantage points inform my role, historically, as an artist making images.
The work included in the portfolio was not made to directly relate to one another, though
the sequence of images is loosely informed by the stages of The Hero’s Journey, or the
Monomyth, an idea introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero of A Thousand Faces
(1949). In Campbell’s description of the concept,
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Beginning with El Pique, I detail the frustrations and resentments I’ve developed as a result of simultaneously being and becoming American. In it, I offer a vignette in to how I learned baseball’s history and it’s practice in a physical space not necessarily conducive to athletic activity, the street.
Following are works such as The Fire Next Time, Shadow on a Wall, It Happened on the Corner, The Church is Empty and Child on Sidewalk,
all which focus on loss, the presence of spirits, and my relationship to family and friends who have passed away. I created these works, in part, reflecting on the current cultural climate regarding black bodies in America and the police who purport to protect them.
Other works in this portfolio include Turn Into the Bat With Your Eyes Turnt Back, Magic
City (Oh City My City), Hombre Murcielago, and Grand Wizard Wayne, which are part of an
ongoing series that offers an autobiographical take on the history of Batman. In my version, the Batman narrative originates in the Dominican Republic in 1901 and ends with the renaming of New York City, to Gotham City, in 1999. In this story, Batman is not a person but rather an ancient energy that can be conjured, manipulated, stored, and possessed.
In recreating the history of Batman, I am attempting to insert myself in a popular
narrative that has always felt geographically and philosophically relevant to my life, but that I never actually saw myself reflected in. Through this revamping, I address several things such as the politics of wealth and status as it relates to race and class, Afro- Diasporic systems of faith, and the cultural and economic exchanges between the Dominican Republic and New York.
I end the collection with The Young Lord (The Mighty Abstract), which depicts a young
individual who has achieved ultimate vision, ultimate perspective.
Scattered throughout are moments where I make allusions to other paintings by artists
who deal with content in similar ways. For instance, Homage to Homage features a series of squares made in the same manner and system as Josef Albers’ famous color study series. The Fire Next Time, the title being an allusion to James Baldwin book of the same name, features a small moment that is taken directly from a Stuart Davis painting entitled
Jefferson Market. The most obvious painting reference can be found in Lonche with the Grass,
as it is a riff on The Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet. In The Church is Empty I borrow a staircase directly from a
Philip Guston painting entitled Gladiators, which is a painting I think of often.