Frank Rivera is an American painter born in 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio. He made his first trip to New York City in 1958, where he visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was captivated by the 15th Century masters, including Hans Memling and Sassetta. He also showed an early fondness for the art of the predella (small serial panels affixed to the bottom of an altarpiece) although it did not become evident as an influence in his own art until many years later.
A graduate student at Yale Art School (1961-62), Rivera left when he was invited to teach at Michigan State University. There he encountered a string of visiting luminaries, including art writer Clement Greenberg, who encouraged him to leave the Midwest. Within a month, Rivera had quit teaching to go to Paris. He rented a studio in the French capital where he worked during much of 1964. The artist still visits France on an annual basis.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1964, Rivera obtained a job as a guard at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He lived in New York almost continuously for the next 15 years, absorbing the dominant influences of his time. He continued to paint, showing in galleries and in the Whitney Biennial during the 1970s, while also teaching full-time at a community college in New Jersey.
Gradually becoming disillusioned with abstract art, he abandoned his large-scale abstractions in favor of a much smaller scale and a narrative approach. The serial format of the new smaller works showed the influence of storyboard graphics and computer art. Other influences were the underground comics of the mid-1980s and a re-awakened interest in the art of the predella.