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HUMBERTO RIVAS. 1937 - 2009

Fotografía Sin título (Fachada del Edificio Histórico La Nau), 1997, Colección Universitat de València © Humberto Rivas
Fotografía Sin título (Fachada del Edificio Histórico La Nau), 1997, Colección Universitat de València © Humberto Rivas

The Humberto Rivas exhibition tackles the work of the artist along his trajectory, from the 1960s until 2005. Rivas was a fundamental author in the growth of photography in Spain from the first half of the 1970s, when he arrived to Barcelona from Argentina. It is due to him that there is a renovation of photography and it enters the field of art.
The exhibition chronologically shows part of his production from the Archivo Humberto Rivas (Barcelona), as well as from the main collections and museums of the country which contain his artwork MNAC, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catañunya; IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern; MNCARS, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía;  Fundación Foto Colectania…).
Rivas was a visionary in relation to his artwork: each time he selected one of the photographies taken with his camera he would immediately develop several images. This allows us to have original copies made by the artist in the exhibition.
The photographic production of Humberto Rivas would fall into different photographic genres according to the historiography of the time. However, Rivas never accepted this classification and it is precisely from this point of view that his contribution to the renovation of Spanish photographic begins. His characters, as well as the city scenery, which, as he liked to say, “are chosen to be registered by the camera”, present a particular contradiction. Landscapes without people and people without landscapes – one or the other, never together in the same photography. It is us who, by showing his artwork, are inserting one inside the other as it is inescapable. Therefore, our exhibition shows the highlights of his conceptual approaches about the subject and the city in a continuous which resembles to what we capture wandering around life.
His photographies offer an extremely descriptive work, but also awfully analytical and yet mysterious. There is no place in his work for anecdotes or incidents. In the eyes of Rivas, poetry was the closest art to photography, and as such his artwork is sided with the feeling of loneliness which causes a seductive uncertainty in the spectator.
In his photographies of the cities Rivas shows it to us rather as a structure than a theatre of humanity. He halts in the spaces inhabited by the shadows, his favourite, as they comprise ever present absences in his particular dissection of the city. 
He also pushes the limits of portrait to the limit. His obsession for certain characters, some completely unknown, which appeared as models in his artwork, brought him to approaching them in an almost compulsive manner until he got their portrait, one which he had already imagined. As a consequence of his portraits, we find a conglomerate of time – there is no decisive moment.
The exhibition includes around 200 photographies. The formats go from his most traditional format, 26 X 26 cm, until the polyptych collages of 9 photographies of 38,3 X 38,3 cm each. 
Violeta la Burra, 1978 © Humberto Rivas

Humberto Rivas

Humberto Rivas was born in Buenos Aires in 1937. He lived and work as a photographer and teacher in Barcelona from 1976 until his death in 2008.
The influence of photographer Anatole Saderman took him to find new connection between static image and cinema. He decided to open a publicity photo workshop in 1971 as well as a cooperative for his creative projects. 
The military coup of 1976 in Argentina and the consequent state of terrorism forced anti-violence Rivas to move to Barcelona with his family and the support of América Sánchez, who was already living in the city. His arrival from Buenos Aires in 1976 was significant for the cultural sphere in Barcelona – the impact of this artwork encourages a group of artists that wished to stop creative photography from the margins of art. In 1982, Rivas took an active part in the launching of the first edition of Primavera Fotográfica of Barcelona, a pioneering event in Spain which was of crucial importance for the recognition of photography as a support of artistic creation. 
A master of photography, Rivas was the exact opposite of a hunter of moments. His art had nothing to do with coincidence or the false boldness of voyeurism – he was a builder of images. He worked primarily in studios with photographic plates and in exteriors with his mind.
With the artwork of Humberto Rivas, Spanish photography discovered a new form of documentation, aiming at capturing the passing of time, culture and memory. His photographies are characterised by always capturing the viewers’ gaze and allowing for an interaction. His portraits hardly feature background as the most important aspect is the subject themselves.
The artistic dimension of Rivas is not only given by the aesthetic change that it entailed, but mostly because of the sensibility that it transpires with each of his portraits, the particular treatment for each one of this characters, who become channels for his own life with precision and rigour.
In Rivas’ landscape there is no room for anecdotes, for incidents. The scenery is absent, as if it were a metaphysic experience, and he eliminates any violence, noise or stridency that could distract the gaze on the essence itself of the element. All of his photographies slip through his inquisitive glance. His portraits, objects, buildings and rooms, which are radically isolated to lines, surfaces and façades, suddenly come alive.
The photographies of Humberto Rivas invite people to contemplation and analysis of its content. Their meticulous detailing helps us understand the reason for its creation and the interpretation that the author gave of the subject and the landscape.
The City Council of Barcelona gave Humberto Rivas the 1997 Premio de Artes Plásticas de la Ciudad de Barcelona. In 1998, he was given the Premio Nacional de Fotografía by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. He was also awarded the Premio Konex in Argentina in 1999. In 2009, the City Council of Barcelona granted him the Gold Metal of Artistic Merit. Humberto Rivas passed away on 6 November 2009 in Barcelona.
Lourdes, 1979 © Humberto Rivas