Neil “Clavo” 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 Queremos Fraude 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.
His body of work, Las Marchas y Intervenciones 2006-2016, consists of photographs of marches, rallies, and other actions within the U.S. immigrant rights movement in California and Arizona that he’s 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. Rivas is also the creator of the U.S. Department of Illegal Superheroes – the largest investigative agency in the U.S. dedicated to the apprehension and removal of “illegal superheroes”; and Clavo’s School for Young Superheroes (SYS) – a traveling school inspired by the institute where the X-Men are educated in the Marvel Comics universe.
Rivas’ work has been presented as part of exhibitions and projects, nationally and internationally. 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 California Community Foundation, Kala Art Institute, and SEIU–United Service Workers West; and he has done artist residencies throughout California and Guatemala. 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.
Rivas is also a certified healthcare interpreter and a sports photographer who has covered the Mexican and U.S. men’s national football teams, Real Madrid C.F., L.A. Galaxy, Chivas USA, and Golden Boy Promotions professional boxing.
CV available upon request.