Something about the diagrammatic silhouettes and obscured labels in Larry Rivers’s An Outline of History hit differently when I came across it in PAM’s Online Collections today. The shapes and composition are so familiar that I instantly recognized the moment in American history. Yet I still imagined a multitude of alternative narratives filling the negative space—from historic reality to convenient narratives. But what I find so powerful about this print is that by only giving us the shape of a memory, Rivers puts the onus on us, the viewers, to color in the lines with the complex, nuanced reality of the founding of this country. All the while, he uses playful colors to provoke a sort of optimism, acknowledging history while leaving space open for what could be.
—Rachael Winter Durant, Head of Digital Assets & Collections Information Systems
Larry Rivers (American, 1923–2002). An Outline of History, from the “Kent Bicentennial Portfolio: Spirit of Independence,” 1975. Color lithograph and screenprint on paper. Gift of Lorillard, 76.4.10 © artist or other rights holder