Thursday, July 8, 2010

Late artist Larry Rivers' daughters demand return of video tapes

Madame Butterfly


Larry Rivers

Emma and Gwynne

What's going on here that merits a section in The New York Times...a matter best left to negotiations behind closed doors between the late artist Larry Rivers' daughters Emma and Gwynne and the New York University's archivists. This whole issue could have been conducted, the public's curiosity will rise. All of this concerns the return of certain video tapes of nude pre-pubescent Emma and Gwynne. Why is this being challenged now? Didn't the sisters have access to the tapes and could have removed them from the collection or destroyed them? Is this really an issue of privacy, morality...or, is there something else involved?

The Rivers Foundation’s director, David Joel, said that he sympathized with Ms. Tamburlini but that he could not agree to destroy the tapes.

“I can’t be the person who says this stays and this goes,” he said. “My job is to protect the material.”

He is right...he is a curator not a judge of content excision. Ownership and legalities will be up to the courts.

"Artist’s Daughter Wants Videos Back"


Kate Taylor

July 7th, 2010

The New York Times

It is a treasure trove of letters, paperwork, photographs and film that document the New York artistic and literary scene from the 1940s through the 1980s.

The archives of the proto-Pop artist Larry Rivers, who died in 2002, will arrive at New York University in a few weeks, filled with correspondence and other documents that depict his relationships with artists like Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol and writers like Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery.

But one part of the archive, which was purchased from the Larry Rivers Foundation for an undisclosed price, includes films and videos of his two adolescent daughters, naked or topless, being interviewed by their father about their developing breasts.

One daughter, who said she was pressured to participate, beginning when she was 11, is demanding that the material be removed from the archive and returned to her and her sister.

“I kind of think that a lot of people would be very uptight, or at least a little bit concerned, wondering whether they have in their archives child pornography,” said the daughter, Emma Tamburlini, now 43.

Ms. Tamburlini said the filming contributed to her becoming anorexic at 16. “It wrecked a lot of my life actually,” she said.

Her older sister, Gwynne Rivers, declined comment.

N.Y.U. has agreed to discuss the matter and has already, at the urging of the foundation, pledged to keep the material off limits during the daughters’ lifetimes. Two years ago Ms. Tamburlini asked the foundation to destroy the tapes, but it declined.

The Rivers Foundation’s director, David Joel, said that he sympathized with Ms. Tamburlini but that he could not agree to destroy the tapes.

“I can’t be the person who says this stays and this goes,” he said. “My job is to protect the material.”

The dispute bears some resemblance to a debate in the 1990s over work by two photographers that raised questions about the extent to which parental consent, naturalism, sexuality and the tradition of the artistic nude play a role in the depiction of naked children.

After Jock Sturges photographed adolescent and pre-adolescent girls in “naturist” communities, with their parents’ consent, the F.B.I. raided his studio as part of an investigation of child pornography. But a grand jury in San Francisco declined to indict him.

Sally Mann exhibited photographs of her three children, dressed and undressed, and critical opinion largely supported her, in part because her children seemed to have participated happily in her work. Ms. Mann said years ago that she never told her children to take their clothes off — they were naked already — and that she stopped photographing them when they reached puberty.

In Rivers’s case the material seems more overtly sexual, including close-up shots of one daughter’s genitals and detailed commentary by Mr. Rivers on the girls’ changing bodies.

The dean of the N.Y.U. Libraries, Carol Mandel, said in a statement that the university believes the “reasonable privacy wishes” of a child should be considered.

“If the extent of the restriction currently planned should be greater, we can have conversations with all the interested parties about the handling of this material going forward,” she said.

Rivers, who was born Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg, performed as a jazz saxophonist in his 20s and then studied painting with Hans Hoffman. At a time when abstraction reigned supreme, he made a stir by reintroducing figuration in works like “Frank O’Hara Nude With Boots” (1954) and “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1953), a postmodern take on history painting.

His reputation declined somewhat after the 1950s, although recent shows at Guild Hall in East Hampton, N.Y., and the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in Manhattan attracted critical praise.

Rivers was a major figure in the New York arts scene, a friend of dozens of artists, writers and musicians, from Leonard Bernstein and Jasper Johns to Kenneth Koch and Terry Southern. He acted in the Beat film “Pull My Daisy” with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, and made a documentary, “Africa and I,” with the Oscar-winning filmmaker Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau.

N.Y.U. officials said they hoped that the archive would provide greater context for Rivers’s work and for that of the artists he interacted with. “It’s one of those collections that we talk about in the rare-book world,” said Marvin Taylor, the director of the Fales Library and Special Collections at N.Y.U.

The university is planning to spend two years processing the archive.

Rivers cast himself as something of a wild man, and in his 1992 autobiography, “What Did I Do?,” he chronicled, among other things, his heroin use, his effort to sleep with his mother-in-law and numerous affairs, including one, when he was in his 40s, with a 15-year-old girl. In describing his own early experiences, he wrote that his father tried to molest the first girlfriend he brought home and said that an 11-year-old boy in his neighborhood forced him to perform a sex act when he was 6.

Ms. Tamburlini said her father filmed his daughters every six months over at least five years for a body of work he titled “Growing.” If she objected, she said, she was called uptight and a bad daughter. When she confronted her father as a teenager about the films, she said he told her “my intellectual development had been arrested.”

In 1981 Rivers edited the footage into a 45-minute film that he planned to show as part of an exhibition. The girls’ mother, Clarice Rivers, who also appears in parts of the film, intervened and stopped him.

In the film Rivers tells the girls to take off their clothes and then zooms in on their breasts from various angles. He interviews them about how they feel about their breasts and whether boys have started noticing them. In some scenes Clarice Rivers appears with her daughters, displaying her own breasts and talking about them.

In a voice-over Rivers says that he made the film over several years in spite of “the raised eyebrows of society in general and specific friends and even my daughters — they kept sort of complaining.” On screen both girls appear self-conscious as they grow older, and Emma in particular hardly speaks.

Clarice Rivers said in an interview that she supports her daughter’s effort to get the film back, though she describes it more benignly as a document of the girls’ development.

“What Larry said was that it would belong to them, as a record that when they got older they could look back at,” she said. “It wasn’t a huge thing. It’s become huge, because they can’t get back what was given to them.”

Ms. Tamburlini, though, said she has spent several years in therapy trying to deal with the effect of her father’s behavior.

“I don’t want it out there in the world,” she said. “It just makes it worse.”

Larry Rivers [Wikipedia]

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