What’s happening on the stage in the John and Richanda Rhoden Arts Center at PAFA is the main event for audience members, but PAFA curator Dr. Brittany Webb is encouraging people to look around when they’re in the new theatre.
“We’ve installed 7 sculptures from John Rhoden in the theatre that bears his and his wife’s name,” said Rhoden curator Dr. Brittany Webb.
In 2001, Rhoden passed away at the age of 82 and was survived by his wife, Richanda, who passed away in 2016. The executor of the Rhoden estate, Robert T. Anker, entrusted PAFA to gain John Rhoden his long overdue recognition within the art world. In 2018 PAFA took responsibility of more than 275 works by the late African American sculptor John Rhoden.
In addition to Rhoden’s work, PAFA also received $5 million to fund a curator of the Rhoden Collection, a book and exhibition about Rhoden coming in 2022, a full scholarship for a PAFA student and construction of the now completed arts center.
“These sculptures are a great show of Rhoden’s range and these are works that have been accessioned into PAFA’s permanent collection,” Webb said. “When people come we can tell them that these works will always be here.”
The featured sculptures include Rhoden’s work in stone, bronze and wood, and his exploration of the female figure. His wife, Richanda, inspires many of his sculptures.
“There’s really fun, abstract stuff he does with the female figure, where everything is hyper curvy and bulbous and interesting,” Webb said. “And you can see that the face looks like Richanda.”
The 7 sculptures on view in the Rhoden Arts Center are a precursor to the Rhoden exhibition being mounted in 2022.
“The Arts Center is not enough space to show off the incredible work that he does on a large scale but I’m hoping it wets the appetite a little bit,” Webb said. “Even people who have heard of Rhoden tend to have only seen one or two pieces. They might have seen a statue somewhere or a piece outside of one of the hospitals in New York. People don’t think about him as having this range, particularly across medium and influences, and PAFA is working to change that.”
In addition to the upcoming Rhoden exhibition, Webb has been tasked with distributing Rhoden’s work to museums across the country to help continue the artist’s legacy and introduce him to new audiences.
The Arts Center is only the beginning of the next chapter of Rhoden’s story.
“It’s a good place to get to know who he is and I’m hoping this will be sort of a Rhoden appetizer to get people excited about what else is coming.”