Robert Rivers: The Promised Land


The Promised Land is a dramatic series of drawings rendered in graphite, red pencil, acrylic glazes, oil paint and other media. In Rivers’ enigmatic narratives serpents wind their way through the works, figures unwrap the cloth bandages of a mummy (or is it the invisible man?) and wide-eyed cartoon-like humanoids stand awkwardly. A recurring nude seated woman (based on the character Atalanta from Greek mythology) gazes at all of the action. These assorted characters inhabit Rivers’ world—constructed spaces created with sharply drawn parallel lines that are, at times, punctuated with blackened voids which reference trap doors, portals or graves.

The dominant subject in most of the compositions is an array of mostly male figures pictured with shaved heads, wearing t-shirts and combat boots. The artist’s commentary on the perils facing frontline American soldiers engaged in the war in Afghanistan is also infused with a myriad of historical art references ranging from paintings by Giotto to Giorgione.

In one composition a standing figure shoulders the weight of a wounded comrade, while in another work a soldier is depicted leading a fallen man through a portal signifying the afterlife. Rivers depicts the complex relationships that unite these soldiers, the intense camaraderie and unwavering loyalty, when facing extreme conditions.

Rivers received his MFA in printmaking from the University of Georgia and is a Professor of Art at the University of Central Florida. His art has been exhibited in numerous venues including the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C

National University of Health Sciences
ROBERT RIVERS (American, born 1950)
The Promised Land, 2010-12
Mixed media on paper
Courtesy of the artist