Born and raised in New York’s Washington Heights—a dense, hilly neighborhood often referred to as “little DR”—Rivero is an artist whose work grows quite literally from his community. As a kid, roving the halls and liminal spaces of his apartment building piqued an interest in examining and imagining the hidden histories of his surroundings. Urban architectural elements, particularly those of neglected spaces, became a source of inspiration for the artist, their textures and quirks suggestive of stories ripe for unspooling on a canvas or in a drawing. Stints in behind-the-scenes gigs, including as a doorman, porter, and art handler, further cultivated an eye for subtle tells and details.
Yet while Rivero’s work often draws on his own experiences and environments, it would be a misnomer to refer to them as autobiographical. His hybrid narratives draw just as much on the stories he’s divined and been told as they do on the influences of merengue, hip-hop, and house music. His works teem with moody, ethereal characters that poke fun at machismo and unsettle traditional notions of race, gender, and what he calls the “broken narrative of Dominican American identity.” Fluidity and improvisation are key for Rivero, with each work sliding between the realms and symbols of Christianity, Vodun, Santeria, and myriad other strains of Afro-Caribbean spirituality.
This issue, Rivero invites us into his Bronx studio and walks us through his process.