Ahmad “Champagne Rivi” Rivera has been developing a series of paintings in honor of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat since July 2015. Rivi’s unique combination of extravagant and eye-opening colors earned mass visibility in Tallahassee this year.
“Ode to Basquiat” is a series of 12 paintings paying homage to Brooklyn artist Basquiat. Before becoming a student, Rivera was able to complete the series of paintings. He was asked to enter them in a competition offered by the Council of Culture and Arts (C.O.C.A.)
Despite completely finishing his 12-painting series, Rivi submitted three paintings to the C.O.C.A. to compete against various artists March 2015. “King Bobizeppa” earned first place against 64 other artist and their masterpieces, while also earning a spot in City Hall’s art gallery from the end of March to mid-April.
For Rivi, this accomplishment was everything to him but a surprise.
“I mean it wasn’t necessarily shocking. I know my work is great, but it was definitely a humbling experience when I heard (her) call out my name as the first place winner,” Rivi said.
Rivi explained ode meant “to pay homage to” and the small word plays a very significant role in the name, development and meaning of each one of his 12 artworks.
Basquiat was famous African-American artist known for his unorthodox street graffiti work and his ability to make a collage reflective of not only his urban style, but also his Afro-Caribbean heritage. Rivi said that Basquiat's work was powerful and it spoke to him.
Not coincidentally, Rivi had much respect for, and inspiration from, an artist that mirrored him in many ways. Rivi felt that their similar Brooklyn backgrounds, and similarities in the people that personally inspired him the most, played a significant role in the development of this powerful series.
“His mother was Puerto Rican, my father was Puerto Rican; his father was Haitian, my mother was from St. Thomas,” Rivi said.
Rivi has attributed his motivation to his very artistically inclined parents and other artists he was inspired by including Cope2, Pablo Picasso and Bob Marley for his power, struggle and his words.
Rivi continues to show his drive while communicating his education despite his success. Upon receiving his associate in the arts, Rivi has made it an obligation to earn his bachelor’s degree in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communications at FAMU in 2017.
“Graphic design classes expanded my mind greatly. I now understand how to design the canvas, not necessarily paint it. My paintings are painted, crafted and designed and I would like to thank the School of Journalism for that,” Rivi said.
As Rivi is still working to complete his final two paintings for “Ode to the Basquiat.”
Rivi held the grand opening to his shop, located on Railroad Avenue behind Curio, in early April.