Gilberto Rivera is a self-taught artist of Puerto Rican descent who was raised first in New York City and then inside the walls of the federal prison system. His work, both as incarcerated artist and since his release from a two decade prison sentence, explores his personal experiences of subjugation. This includes the psychological effects of solitary confinement, the harms enacted on Latino communities at the intersection of the U.S. criminal legal and immigration systems, and the manifestation of colonialism and exploitation in the prison industrial complex.
Rivera works in mixed media, integrating materials with biographical and social resonance. His prison works include carceral castoffs like torn pieces of his prison uniform, a drop cloth, commissary reports and floor wax. More recent works frequently integrate construction materials, evoking the raw physicality of his present vocation, the often invisible toil of working class people, and the material culture of a rapidly gentrifying city. He also draws on contemporary newspaper and magazine articles and historic references to prominent Latinx activists and other movements for liberation. Rivera’s work was shown at MoMA PS1 in the exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. He has also shown at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Schomburg Center, Brown University Gallery, Basel Art Week with Malin Gallery, SHAG, Martos Gallery, and the Andrew Feldman House in the Bronx. His work was featured in Artforum, Art in America, ArtNews, and The New York Times.