Chris Kraus


Kuva: Carissa Gallo

Reynaldo Rivera: Provisional Notes for a Disappeared City

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Reynaldo Rivera, then a LA Weekly photographer, took personal photos of the LA that he lived in and knew: a world of cheap rent, house parties, underground fashion and bands and a handful of Latino gay/transvestite bars: Mugi’s, The Silverlake Lounge, and La Plaza. In LA’s Latino subculture then, gay male and transvestite bars were the same thing.

Except for La Plaza, these bars are long closed and most of the performers are dead. But in Rivera’s astonishing body of work, these men and women live on in a silvery landscape of makeshift glamour, a fabulous flight from unacceptable reality. Their glamour was salvaged from old, late-night movies from cinema’s golden age in Hollywood and Mexico City.

Rivera arrived in the US with his father from Mexicali in his mid-teens as a seasonal agricultural worker in Stockton. Finding the world of fields and the cannery unbearable, he took refuge in used bookstores and thrift stores, where he discovered old photo books of Mexican film stars and the work of Lisette Model, Brassai and Bresson. He bought a camera, began photographing people at his hotel, and eventually moved to Echo Park in Los Angeles and became part of an artistic community.

During this residency, I will write a long critical/biographical/poetic essay of approximately 7,000 words that will comprise the principal text for a large format black-and-white photography book of his work.

The book will be published by Semiotext(e) in 2019, edited by Hedi El Kholti and designed by Lauren Mackler of Public Fiction.  A conversation between Rivera and his friend Vaginal Davis about the LA club world of those years will comprise the secondary text for this book.