Neil “Clavo” Rivas, aka Tony Rivas, is an interdisciplinary artist whose work stems from his roles as a documentarian, educator, activist, and former community organizer. His work is rooted in visual narrative being a critical tool for social justice, and driven by the legacies of resistance and resilience within his communities and family in and outside of El Salvador. Using his own photographic imagery, other historic photos, collected objects, and appropriated pop-culture iconography, he is invested in collective memory, aesthetic politics, and creating tactical interventions within social, cultural, and political contexts. He produces both short-term and long-term researched-based projects that have come in a range of forms, including multimedia installations, public interventions, web-based projects, performances, and community-based practices. Much of his work has been used for educational purposes, journalism, legal evidence, human rights advocacy, protest, and documentary films.
Rivas’ documentary work has covered numerous social movements and political events, such as the U.S. immigrant rights movement, the 2009 Salvadoran presidential race, No Al Fraude Electoral in El Salvador to combat voting fraud, the civilian resistance during the 2009 Honduran coup, the Occupy movement, the South Central Farm, the California farmworkers’ movement, the Justice for Trayvon Martin Movement, the anti-femicide movement in Mexico, La Vela de las Intrépidas in Oaxaca, the Salvadoran trans rights movement, Salvadoran child street labor, the Salvadoran campaign to prevent youth gun violence, anti-child sex-trafficking in Cambodia, the School of the Americas Watch, the Salvadoran campaign for Oscar Romero’s sainthood canonization, the U.S. anti-war movement, and the 2004 California State University statewide walkouts.
From 2006-2016, Rivas produced Las Marchas y Intervenciones, a body of work consisting of photographs of rallies and other actions within the U.S. immigrant and refugee rights movement that he has participated in, with a series of interdisciplinary projects through which those images were revisited, tactically transformed, and re-contextualized, such as Las Gran Marchas Revisited – a multifaceted project commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the two largest immigrant rights demonstrations in U.S. history, the March 25th & May 1st marches of 2006 in Los Angeles, in collaboration with several main organizers and youth who participated. The collection of projects also includes a site-specific public intervention revisiting the 2007 police invasion of MacArthur Park in L.A. during a rally, which features life-size cardboard cut-outs followed by a multimedia installation about the invasion and one-year anniversary intervention. The original photographs used to create the installations were also used for a community-based newspaper and as evidence for police brutality victims during the invasion in a legal case that was won. Additionally, included is a project called Por Que Occupy – comprised of a billboard, sticker campaign, and participatory web-based platform that intersected the immigrant rights movement with the Occupy and Indignados (Spain) movements.
In 2012, Rivas created the U.S. Department of Illegal Superheroes (ICE DISH) – the largest investigative agency in the U.S. dedicated to the apprehension and removal of “illegal superheroes.” That same year, he co-created 20/20 FOTO – the first institutional cross-border art program between El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico since the 2008 eruption of regional violence. In 2011, he created Clavo’s School for Young Superheroes (SYS) – a traveling school inspired by the institute where the X-Men are educated. Both ICE DISH and the SYS continue to be active.
Rivas’ work has been presented as part of exhibitions and projects, nationally and internationally, in universities, schools, public parks, libraries, web-based projects, galleries, and museums such as the Museum of Latin American Art, Museum of Art of El Salvador, National Palace of Culture of Guatemala, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Cartoon Art Museum; with upcoming exhibitions at the San Antonio Museum of Art, Addison Gallery of American Art, and Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen in El Salvador. His work has been published and written about throughout the Americas, Europe, Australia, and China by the likes of The Guardian (UK), CNN Español, NBC, Univision, The Huffington Post, The New York Times blog, The Washington Post, Democracy Now!, MTV, NPR, Lado B (Mexico), Prensa Contrapunto (El Salvador), ArtInfo International, Colorlines Magazine, Upworthy, Art Practical, Daily Serving, KQED, SF Weekly, and others. His work has been acquired by Michigan State University Libraries, along with private collections in the U.S. and Australia.
He has been the recipient of several awards, grants, and fellowships, most recently from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), California Community Foundation, Kala Art Institute, and SEIU–United Service Workers West; and he has done artist residencies throughout California and Guatemala, at sites such as Angel Island State Park, Richmond Art Center, Intersection for the Arts, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, Galería de la Raza, CFCE Antigua, and El Nahual.
Rivas received his MFA in Fine Arts at California College of the Arts and his BFA in Art Photography from California State University, Long Beach. Coming from a Salvadoran family of migrants, refugees, and exiles, Rivas was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and is currently based there.
CV available upon request.