The Quotable Larry Rivers: ‘We Want to Go Down On History’

IMG_3531Courtesy Fales Library Graduation photo

Larry Rivers had a way with words. That much was obvious as friends, associates, and academics recalled the artist, poet and musician Friday at Fales Library. Here are just some of the things they remembered him saying:

1. “We want to go down on history.” (David Joel, executive director, executive director of the Larry Rivers Foundation, remembered him saying this about his collaborations with Frank O’Hara.)

2. “Picasso. He tried everything, and it worked.” (Recalled by David Levy, former head of Parsons School of Design and Rivers’ bandmate.)

3. “When you’re 20, you want to be somebody. When you’re 30, you want to do something.” (Recalled by Bill Berkson, New York School poet.)

4. “One more thing: only dead men can influence us honestly.” (David Joel.)

5. “I’m a regional painter, even if my region contained 250 million people.” (Recalled by Rob Slifkin, assistant professor at N.Y.U.’s Institute of Fine Arts.)

6. “The human body is at best a rectangle, a bashed-in milk container.” (Bill Berkson.)

7. “The idea of Larry Rivers was born with ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware.'” (David Joel recalled Rivers referring to himself in the third person.)

8. “I knew that being in the presence of art, making art, even making love couldn’t get at the feeling I get when I make music.” (Recalled by David Amram, a musician who collaborated with Rivers extensively.)

9. “You’re filling, filling, filling. Then finally it gets to the edge. It’s there.” (Recalled by Jenni Quilter, who has taught writing at N.Y.U. and the New School.)

10. “Why shouldn’t I have a cock show if I want one?” (Rivers said this in reference to wanting to do an art show depicting roosters, but put it as provocatively as he could, said David Joel.)