Richanda Rhoden at Soloway, through September 30th with a reception this Sunday, September 16th from 6 to 8pm
VCS faculty member Emily Weiner sent us the following information about an ongoing exhibition of works by artist Richanda Rhoden that she curated at Soloway gallery in Brooklyn:
* * *
This exhibition that I curated at Soloway gallery of my late neighbor Richanda Rhoden has gotten a lot of great and thoughtful press, with details about how we came to show the work.
Last week Mira Dayal at Artforum reviewed the exhibition as a “Critics’ Pick” for September, The Brooklyn Rail published a poetic piece by Hadley Suter, and ARTNews featured it as one of the top art events to attend this summer. Also The New Yorker published an amazing profile. From that article:
The judge’s daughter, the sculptor’s wife, the elegant neighbor—like many women of her generation, Richanda Rhoden was largely defined by her relationships. But I suspect that she introduced herself as an artist. For decades, Rhoden painted almost every day. After she began using a wheelchair near the end of her life—she died in 2016, just four months shy of her hundredth birthday—she moved the studio to her elevator.
Now, at Soloway, an artist-run storefront in South Williamsburg, Rhoden is having what is probably her first solo show—“probably” because Rhoden didn’t maintain an archive, and Emily Weiner, the conscientious thirty-seven-year-old painter who put the show together, just can’t be sure. “She planned to live until she was a hundred and sixteen,” Weiner told me during my recent visit to the gallery, where the kaleidoscopically colored canvases on the walls, made between 1965 and 1985, share the mystical, folkloric leanings of Rufino Tamayo and Marc Chagall, with a compositional undulance all their own…
This year, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts acquired John’s estate—about three hundred pieces—and has hired a dedicated curator to oversee it. In 2019, pafa will open a new art center named in honor of John and Richanda Rhoden, but the legacy of hundreds of Richanda’s paintings remains uncertain. At a time when the story of art is dominated by fame, money, power, and political rhetoric, her show at Soloway is more than a memorial to an overlooked talent—it’s an oasis. (Full text here.)
A reception will be at Soloway Gallery this Sunday, September 16, 6:00–8:00 p.m. and all are invited to join!
* * *
Soloway is located at 348 South 4th Street in Brooklyn. The gallery’s website provides the following images and description of the show. You can also see additional images of works from it at this page.
Exhibition extended through Sunday September 30
Reception in honor of the artist Sunday September 16, 6–8pm
Soloway is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings by the late Brooklyn-based artist Richanda Rhoden.
Rhoden, who painted nearly every day until her death in December 2016, would be 101 years old at the time of this exhibition. To the best of our knowledge, this is her first solo show in New York City.
These paintings and objects are a few of the threads left from an elaborate tapestry of a huge, long, rich, committed, exceptional life. Unwaveringly from the 1950s through early 2000s, Richanda upheld the value and necessity of her own painting practice despite the preferences of a largely male-dominated—and later youth-oriented—art market. Her world was devoted to the sustenance of her own work, as well as to the life and public recognition of her sculptor husband, John Rhoden, for whom she was a muse. The silence after such a life lived feels drastic, and this exhibition aims to convey, even in some small way, the romance and importance of her story, through artworks that persist beyond life and language.
Richanda Rhoden (née Phillips) was born and raised in Washington state to Native American parents, her mother Cherokee and father Menominee. She met John Rhoden in New York while studying art at Columbia University. They married in Rome, where he was a fellow at the American Academy. In 1960, the Rhodens purchased a brick parking garage on Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, which they converted into an artists’ mansion and studio housing John’s multi-ton, cast-bronze sculptures; chandeliers and furniture collected from their travels to Indonesia, Africa, and Italy; and neighborhood parties which Richanda continued hosting decades after John’s death in 1994. As Richanda explained at one of her last get-togethers, she and Isamu Noguchi were both bidding on the same building because—as a garage retrofitted with steel-reinforced floors and a large freight elevator—it was an affordable artist studio with a capacity for heavy sculptures on each level.
Over their lifetime, the home also became the primary display for hundreds of Richanda’s vibrant paintings, made up of a mythological language of her own creation, culled from multiple influences and cultures. These works covered the walls, many hung in large artist’s frames built onsite, while stacks of large canvases spilled onto the floors. Her paintings recall dream scenes of Marc Chagall, carnivalesque figures of James Ensor, lusty brushstrokes of Joan Mitchell. Yet the canvases are landscapes unique to themselves, containing dancers in clouds of bright pinks, Balinese mountains in purples and blues, the embedded symbols of a tarot deck. A huge number of her husband John’s sculptures were also installed in the three-story house, filling the space ground-to-ceiling with Richanda’s likeness cast in bronze.
With her mobility faltering in her 90s, Richanda made the freight elevator into her painting studio, where she could move between floors and continue to work each day, on wide, unstretched canvas tarps. At the time of her death, at 99 years old, there were about a dozen paintings in progress, still tacked to the elevator wall.
This winter, over 200 of John Rhoden’s works were moved into the permanent collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, who—with the sale of their home—will be shepherding his legacy and art. However, with little exhibition history and provenance for Richanda’s own work, her paintings have yet to find a permanent institution.