Elena del Rivero has dedicated her work to study diverse written and visual forms for communicating personal experiences with an emphasis in the epistolary format. Born in Valencia, Spain, she has lived in New York since 1991. Her focus is on painting and works on paper but she has also produced large-scale installations and performances with an interest in printmaking and analog photography. Her projects develop gradually and do not always possess predictable end points. She welcomes improvisation and free associative connections and meanings amass over extended periods of time. One of her ongoing drawing series, “Letter to the Mother,” initially inspired by Franz Kafka’s Letter to his Father, has, since the 1990s, grown in various directions. Del Rivero draws inspiration from what is at hand, historical events that she has witnessed, and the everyday with its multiple symbolical references. She contemplates a utopian idea of mending action that she takes whenever the opportunity arises when the works get damaged, intentionally or not, during the process of making them; in this manner she, metaphorically, sutures their "wounds". The kitchen historically has been the “female grid,” and it is this paradoxical and political place, the symbol par excellence of domesticity that has become her laboratory of ideas.
Inspired by these thoughts, she has been since the mid 90's producing another ongoing series of paintings on un-stretched canvas, which resemble enormous dishtowels that bear stains of life from her home-studio, marks that embed histories in the cloth.
Her renewing attention to domestic textiles corresponds with her broader concern for anti-monumentalism, which recently has grown more profound. Her aim is that these paintings will be the basis for nylon flags intended for installation in public parks.
Transferring and translating the dishtowel from the kitchen into urban landscapes would unlock a rich range of metaphors and perhaps ennoble this often-under-esteemed object. The transposition from the private, domestic realm into public space will ultimately raise questions about the rise and fall of symbols of power. The flags would poignantly push the imaginations of viewers strolling in the parks, who in turn catch the flags with their gaze.
Elena del Rivero’s work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT); Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA); National Gallery of Art (Washington DC); Baltimore Art Museum (Baltimore, MD); Colby College Museum of Art (Waterville, ME); Pollock Gallery at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX); Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham, AL); Institut Valenciá d’Art Modern (Valencia, Spain) and The Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain), among others.
Major grants and prizes include, Academia Bellas Artes de España in Rome (Prix de Rome 1988), Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (1991 and 1995), Creative Capital Foundation Grant (2001), The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2001 and 2002), The Rockefeller Foundation Residency at The Bellagio Center, Italy (2005) and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2015). Most recently she was awarded a residency at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, LA (2017) and was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship (2019.).