Across his body of work, Reynaldo Rivera depicts people enmeshed in their own private worlds who completely transcend their surroundings through the force of imagination and their inner lives. This remains true, whether the subject is photographed in a garden, a public toilet, or a house party in pre-gentrified Echo Park. I think this is a primary difference between Rivera’s work and Nan Goldin’s, to whom his portraits of drag queens, trans women, and other friends might be compared. Goldin’s subjects in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency are downwardly mobile: middle class kids who took a wrong turn, captured in louche dens of bohemian squalor during emotionally intimate scenes… Rivera’s photographs of drag performers taken in Latino gay bars in LA between 1989 and 1997 reflect a different kind of collaboration. He sees his subjects less as they “are” than how they most wish to be seen, lending himself to their dreams and illusions of glamour. And why shouldn’t these dreams be realized? — Chris Kraus*
This week, Linda Simpson and Reynaldo Rivera will present their new books—The Drag Explosion and Reynaldo Rivera: Provisional Notes for a Disappeared City—and join artist and editor Alex Jovanovich in conversation.
See link below to register for the online event.
Artforum / Bookforum
Tuesday, December 15.
4 pm on the West Coast; 7 pm East Coast.
*Chris Kraus, from her introduction to Reynaldo Rivera: Provisional Notes for a Disappeared City (South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e), 2020).
Linda Simpson (images in color, from top): RuPaul, 1992; group of drag performers, including Lady Bunny (far left); Dean Johnson, 1987; RuPaul; event card image courtesy and © Artforum and Bookforum. Images © Linda Simpson, courtesy of the artist.
Reynaldo Rivera (images in black and white, from above): Echo Park (self-portrait), 1996; Vaginal Davis, Downtown, 1993; Cindy Gomez, Echo Park, 1992; Elyse Regehr and Javier Orosco, Downtown LA, 1989). Images © Reynaldo Rivera, courtesy of the artist