Ugo Riva


bronze sculptor

Ugo Riva was born in Bergamo on August 9, 1951. Since his youth and during his high school studies, he developed a strong interest in figurative art that soon gave way, since 1977, to the interest in sculpture to which he dedicated himself during his intense career. He attends the studio of a sculptor from Bergamo. His work of this youthful period is close to expressionistic tendencies. Subsequently, during the '80s, he moves away in favour of a more in-depth study of the classical understood as a living source and invigorating from which to draw emotions and feelings to relive and make their own. In the '90s, he has considerably thinned out in his works the references to the mythology and literature of the classical world.

The contemporaneity becomes the object of his interest, and his attention is always turned to the feelings and drives that outline a fully lived human life.

For this reason, he represents love in its infinite dimensions: sensuality, motherhood, the anguishing loneliness of the individual. From the beginning of his career, he experimented with different materials, from concrete to stone, from marble to wood, but it was with clay that he found the most excellent affinity. Thanks to its malleability, this material will allow him to represent the signs, vibrations, and passions of the subjects that inspire his sculptures.

With his subjects and his "sculpture of fragility", Riva tries to record the climate of restlessness and contradiction in which contemporary man lives, suspended between the affirmation of himself and the feeling of death. Since 1973, Ugo Riva has held more than thirty personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad. Sculptures of monumental dimension are at institutional institutions: the most recent is the crucial acquisition by the Province of Bergamo of the Imperturbable Gods, a work bought on the occasion of the retrospective dedicated to him in the spring of 2008. Some artworks, always of great dimension, are present in critical private collections, among which the Inaz S.p.A.


From 2008's catalogue by Timothy Standring

1.There are "milliaia" as you Italians say of hits on the web when one searches for information on Ugo Riva. He is not unknown by any means. Born in Bergamo in August 1951, basically trained locally, has a sense of art history, knows techniques, and eventually developed a sensibility all his own. It would seem that the biography on the artist seems yet to be written. Someone will come along and assemble the life facts of the artist and link them with his works of art. Someone will begin to see connections between those life facts and how they impacted the final results of his art.
2. Writing the biography of an artist is an interesting challenge: what is it that counts when we verbalize the final results of the creative act ? Did place and presence of the artist play a role in his formative years? What is Van Gogh went to Milan instead of Arles ? Did the artist respond to his surroundings? Is psychoanalysis credible when seeking the links between the works and the maker? What collective mentalities come into play when we try to capture the essence of an artist’s work? Do the works themselves betray or reveal something of the maker?
3. How is meaning for a work of art created? Is it far from the materials of clay, water, metals, and then pigments?
4. Where resides the truth of these works? I think it resides in the realm of how convincing he sustains the myth, how convincing he holds the lie of their artifice. Like a novelist whose task is to sustain the dream, Riva also has the ability to sustain the balance between that which is recognizable, even tangible, and that which deals with the imaginative, and less concrete, but not less substantial as a reality.
5. Sensuality of Riva’s sculpture functions because he has the ability to create works with the suggestion of settings or situations that are private, like making love to your wife in the kitchen when the kids are in bedrooms 5 meters away. The sensuality of the sex is heightened because of the imminent appearance of a child seeking out a parent. Or the love making that takes place at an impromptu moment down a quiet unpopulated viccolo: but the thrill comes from the knowledge that the sensual intimacy might terminate with the appearance of another person, or the opening of a window above. So we are voyeurs of situations that Riva has captured.
6. The presence technical means – of twisting clay with hands, softened by water, manipulated with fingers, palette knives, wires, and god knows how many other instruments – is always present in Riva’s works. At first I found this disconcerting and thought that it was a function of irresolution, of his inability to pull the overall work together. But the more I learned about Riva’s works, the more I came to appreciate this aspect of his works – it offered me a link to the creative process similar to a Navaho weaver who leaves a small woven trace outside the frame of the overall composition which links the creation to greater forces outside the realm of the object. Without the appearance of unformed clay, Riva’s pieces would lose their energy and their “life spirit” as well.
7. When I was first introduced to Riva’s works, my art historical roll-a-dex turned to prior works in clay. I recalled Tangara terracottas, Etruscan works, fast forward to some clay pieces I had seen in the Bargello, to clay works by Bernini, Duquesnoy, and Mochi. And I especially thought that Riva had been taken by the brilliant works by the scapialitura sculptors who works in Milan and Rome at the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th centuries. Collectively, it is these works that fed the imagination of Riva to move to his own world of manipulation of clay. 8. But the negative spaces of Riva’s works – those areas that are not filled with materials – are also important, and one wonders if he had looked to his earlier 20th century brethren such as Giacometti, and to Gonzalez. I have a feeling that somewhere back in Riva’s studio there are earlier experiments of his work in this realm of the surreal, of the absurd, that he too had produced works that feed off of this outer realm of our consciousness.
9. The big imponderable for me with Riva’s works is his use of color: I’m undecided whether it functions or not. What is certain, however, it that its inclusion gives his works an edge that I guess would otherwise leave the work bereft or deprived.
10. Works of art never function in a void and come alive with discourse and engagement sparked any number and combination of means: by allusions to art history, a sense of place, to biographical data about an artist, and to descriptions to their works. How these elements come together is also part of the game. More often than not it is a rebus as to how to put these thoughts and observations together, and more often than not, it is what we bring to the discourse that creates a deeper experience with the work in question. Perhaps because of the musings above, your own engagement with the works of Riva are richer than ever.

Timothy J. Standring Denver, novembre 2007 Gates Foundation Curator of Painting & Sculpture Denver Art Museum














Selected exhibitions

Selected exhibitions:

2019 - Incompleta bellezza, Fondazione don Mazzolari, Bozzolo.


2018 - Da Kandinski a Botero sul filo di lana, Palazzo Zaguri, Venezia.

2018 - Natus, Salone di San Lorenzo, Firenze Poesie di Davide Rondoni- testo critico di Beatrice Buscaroli. Contributi di: Giordano Bruno Guerri, Massoud besharat, Francesco D'Areli, Lucetta Scaraffia, Vittorio Sgarbi.


2017- La Porta dell’Angelo, Fortezza Medicea, Arezzo, a cura di Vittorio Sgarbi


2016 - Lettere dall’Inferno (a Dante Alighieri), Fondazione Credito Bergamasco, Palazzo Creberg, Bergamo.

2016 - Alfa e Omega, MACS, Romano di Lombardia, Galleria dell’Accademia Tadini, Lovere Catalogo a Cura di Angelo Piazzoli, TarcisioTironi, Ugo Riva


2015 - Vittorio Sgarbi lo ha scelto per rappresentare la Lombardia in occasione di EXPO 2015, alla mostra "Tesoro d'Italia", padiglione Eataly

2015 - L’Anteprima, Alfa e Omega, Fondazione Credito Bergamasco, PalazzoCreberg, Bergamo.

2015 - Cercando Risposte, A.S.A.V. Seriate - Catalogo a cura di Paolo Sacchini e Ugo Riva


2014 - Contaminatio, Etra Events, FirenzeCatalogo a cura di Vittorio Sgarbi

2012 - Le stagioni, Galleria Salamon&c., Milano


Sculture all’aperto, Four Seasons Firenze
Catalogo con presentazione di Patrizio Cipollini e omaggio di Giordano Bruno Guerri.

Catalogo con presentazione di Patrizio Cipollini e omaggio di Giordano Bruno Guerri.
2012 - Frammenti, Castello di Legnano, Catalogo Allemandi a cura di Flavio Arensi

2011 - Maurizio Bonfanti e Ugo Riva, Galleria De Twee Pauwen, Den Haag, NLo2012 - Sculture all’aperto, Four Seasons Firenze


2012 - Le stagioni, Galleria Salamon&c., Milan


2011 - Anima Mundi, Fondazione Credito Bergamasco, Bergamo
Catalogo a cura di Anna Caterina Bellati, Angelo Piazzoli

2010 - Galleria proposte d’Arte Legnano, Legnano

2010 - Four Seasons, Firenze

2010 - D’Annunzio segreto e tre Angeli di Riva, Vittoriale degli Italiani, Gardone

2010 - Casa della Memoria, Realizzazione opera vincitrice concorso per un percorso museale di scultura all’aperto città di Chiari

2010 - Ensamble, Ugo Riva e Maurizio Bonfanti, Galleria Mar & Patners, Torino Catalogo a cura di Guido Curto

2009 - De Twee Pauwen, Den Haag, Olanda

2008 - Salamon&C Arte Contemporanea, Milano

2008 - Palazzo della Provincia di Bergamo, Bergamo

2005 - Galerie Vallois-Parigi

2004 - Capricorno Gallery-Washington D.C. 

2003 - Grand Hotel-Rimini 

2002 - Park Ryu Sook Gallery - Seoul - Korea 

2000 - Ugo Riva, Galleria Bonaparte, Milano II viaggio, Palazzo dei notai - Bologna 

1998/99 - Galleria Francescani, Rimini 

1995 - Museo delle Arti, Palazzo Bandera, Busto Arsizio 

1993 - Galleria Farsetti, Cortina - Galerie Zur Krone, Batterkinden - Svizzera 

1992 - Galleria Bottega d’Arte, Acqui Terme 

1985 - Gallerie Unterburg, Regensber-Zurigo 

1983 - Galleria Fumagalli, Bergamo 

1982 - Galleria l’Arco, Como - Volkuniversiteit, Rotterdam (disegni) 

1978 - Galleria l’Antenna, Bergamo 

Special events:

 2011 – 54° Biennale Venezia, Padiglione Italia, Palazzo Te