Elena del Rivero
Spain, 1951
The first key stage in the career of this artist unfolded Madrid, a city she has described as a tough place for bullfighters, musicians and painters. In her first paintings, she addressed romantic themes and depicted northern landscapes, but del Rivero gradually narrowed her colour range and adopted a more refined aesthetic that was minimalist in form but far from the Spartan, industrial severity of historical Minimalism. Over time she pursued an intense, obsessive language in her work—the grammar of suppressed creativity imposed on many women suffering the crippling effects of a sexist legal framework and a patriarchal society. Particularly since settling in New York in 1991, Elena del Rivero has cultivated the autobiographical dimension of her work through a series of letters in which painting merges with installation. The artist combines the epistolary theme, reminiscent of Kafka and Marina Tsvetaeva’s Florentine Nights, with quotations from texts by Julia Kristeva, transforming the abject into beauty, like the beauty she says she found in New York, where she was led by an all-consuming love. The notion of time is a crucial one to understand her trajectory, as one can deduce from Intervalo. Simulacro I (1989), a work in which she explores the concept of repetition through the intensity of shadows and areas of darkness. Del Rivero’s work was affected the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, her studio suffered severe damaged. In the aftermath of the event, she gathered thousands of scattered pieces of paper, which she then cleaned and catalogued. She used this found material to create the work entitled [Swi:t] Home: A Chant (2001–2006). Using silk and fake pearls, she stitched the scraps of paper to rolls of muslin to create an installation piece in the form of a cascade. As well as memorialising the events of 9/11, the work embodies a conception of existence close to some of the tenets of the so-called ‘feminism of difference’.
Juan Vicente Aliaga