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The great provocateur, Arturo Rivera, dies


Provocative, not complacent, severe with his work, passionate, loyal to painting, temperamental, disturbing, mysterious, questioning, elusive, complex, brilliant, explosive. All this was the painter Arturo Rivera (1945-2020), who died yesterday at the age of 75, victim of a brain hemorrhage, in a hospital in the Escandón neighborhood.

The creator of a universe that unites the beautiful with the terrible, explains his daughter Emilia Rivera Mejía, he felt bad on Wednesday night, so he was transferred to the hospital, where he died around one thirty in the morning.

It was quick and surprising. We still ate together, he was painting. He was taking blood thinners and had high blood pressure, I think it was that combination. I was with him and he died in peace “, said the pastry chef who clarified that the artist did not fall,” I don’t know why they started saying that. “

The youngest daughter of the graduate of the San Carlos Academy, her first-born is Santiago Rivera, commented that her father had an intimate wake at his home in the Condesa neighborhood, where friends and family arrived, and his remains were cremated yesterday at 2 p.m. :30 hours. “His last exhibition was last November in Guanajuato, at the Museo Conde Rul. We proposed to organize another and he did not want to, he wanted to paint without haste, without pressure ”.

Hilda Rivera, sister of the painter and wife of the poet Eduardo Lizalde, explained that Arturo spent six months in Tepoztlán (Morelos) and that a month ago he returned to Mexico City.

We were endearing, we loved each other very much. We were eight brothers, four men and four women, only us were left. He got along very well with Eduardo, because he loved poetry; he made a portrait of him five years ago, he painted me too. I have about ten of his works. He was a marvel as a painter. I think he was little recognized in life, “he laments.

For the poet and editor José Ángel Leyva, his friend for more than 20 years, said that Rivera “was always looking for revelation, the nodal point where something unexpected appeared. He did not hesitate to erase, remove, and re-incorporate elements; he entered into a dialogue with his work ”.

He adds that the author who studied silkscreen and photoscreen printing in London had a great loyalty and passion for art. “Painting was his way of existing and being. He was a non-compliant artist, severe with his work. An extraordinary creator who is not around the corner. His painting, in addition to quality, has mystery, it is enigmatic, disturbing ”.

The narrator and essayist confesses that the last thing he told him was that he was painting differently, “that the pandemic had helped him to transform his technique; that it was still realistic, but with a blurred figure, I was looking for other effects ”.

The critic and art historian Juan Coronel Rivera defines him as one of the most important figurative artists of the second half of the Mexican 20th century. “He was a visionary, he took figuration where the members of the Generation of Rupture had not taken it, to the modern, integrating an idea that is sometimes surreal and other times hyperrealistic. When he started, there was no one like him in Mexico ”.

The photographer and essayist narrates that years ago he invited him to be part of a gallery he owned, but Arturo refused. “He was a complex, elusive, brilliant being. He was very interested in technique, his work stood out for its chromatic depth. He is one of the great protagonists of Mexican art. He and Rafael Cauduro admired my father, Rafael Coronel, as they commented in some letters, in which they praised his idea of ​​painting a rat on a human scale. He is a character worth studying, ”says Diego Rivera’s grandson.


The researcher and curator Cuauhtémoc Medina emphasizes that the work of Arturo Rivera “is located on the surface of the representation, it practically occurred in a setting without space, which referred to both a graphic tradition and 19th century photography, in the sense of which suggested the presence of a study with a background without definitions ”.

He says that, “apart from the fact that his characters, including himself, are in an attitude between mockery, madness and decomposition, in a certain distant way, with a representation of dignity, he makes a theatrical performance with physical objects.”

Medina evokes the rejection that Rivera expressed for contemporary art, in defense of the exhibition spaces of painting.

It is something difficult to evaluate. In the mid-1990s, he became the spokesman for a reaction; Despite the prestige he gained, he did not generously contemplate cultural change and led an absurd resentment regarding the programming of museums towards contemporary art. It was sad, because contemporaries always respected his work, ”he says.

Controversial, explosive, Rivera was a meticulous worker, a warm boss, “a teacher who always had the doors open for young painters and their friends,” says Mabel Guevara, his assistant and administrator for the last five years.

Remember that the painter could spend more than six hours in his studio, but sometimes he said that he could not think of anything and only listened to music. “He was capable of erasing or destroying a painting if he didn’t like it, he said ‘I’m going to punish him.’ He was very fond of Mexican food, especially pork with purslane. I learned a lot working with him. He said that Charly, who helped him keep the studio clean, and I, were like his family too ”, he concludes.

The National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature agreed with the family to organize a national tribute.