WEST WINDSOR – It was something of a homecoming for artist Frank Rivera during the opening of his show at The Gallery at Mercer on March 11. Dozens of former colleagues, students and community members crowded in to view works from the acclaimed artist’s 70-year career, including 36 years as an instructor at Mercer County Community College (MCCC).
“It’s so much fun doing a retrospective,” said Rivera, a Hightstown resident. “Being an artist is evolutionary. When you go through decades to see what’s important, what you see is a document of your life.”
“Frank Rivera Retrospective: Selected Works, 1945-2015” opened Tuesday, March 10, and runs through Thursday, April 2, at The Gallery at Mercer, located on the second floor of the Communications Building on the college’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. The exhibit includes items created during Rivera’s childhood, right up to works that were completed in recent weeks.
Rivera was quick to note that the exhibit is not a chronology, but is more thematic. The works were arranged to project continuity, he said.
“I think there are certain themes, and I wanted to connect them,” Rivera said. “Certain patterns, against expansive color.”
Rivera said that he reviewed about 150 pieces of work before settling on the 60 or so that make up the exhibit, involving many decisions not made until the works were actually in the gallery. Particularly intriguing to gallery patrons was a series of view boxes, which Rivera describes as “peep holes for one eye.” To see the art the boxes hold, the viewer must look through a glass lens – with an experience that is part of the art, Rivera said.
“Five people can stand in front of a painting and discuss what they see,” Rivera said. “But with the boxes, you look at it with one eye and then only a memory of what you saw.”
Rivera has remained busy since his retirement from MCCC in 2003, creating new works of art and participating in exhibits that include the Whitney Museum, the Abington Art Center, and venues in Paris. But he speaks fondly of his years at Mercer, and welcomes the opportunity to show his work at the college where he spent more than three decades.
“Working here was great,” Rivera said. “This is like a homecoming. It’s great to see that so many of my colleagues from the old days are here.”
Gallery hours are Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.