The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts opens 'Determined To Be: The Sculpture of John Rhoden'
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The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts opens 'Determined To Be: The Sculpture of John Rhoden'
John Rhoden, Three Headed Lion, 1954. Bronze 20 x 37 x 12 in. (50.8 x 93.98 x 30.48 cm.). The John Walter Rhoden and Richanda Phillips Rhoden Collection, 2019.27.3. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts celebrates 20th century African American sculptor John Rhoden (1916-2001) with the exhibition, Determined To Be: The Sculpture of John Rhoden, the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work. The exhibition, curated by Dr. Brittany Webb, the Evelyn and Will Kaplan Curator of Twentieth Century Art and the John Rhoden Collection at PAFA, opened October 5, 2023 and is on view through April 7, 2024. In 2017 PAFA was selected by the John Rhoden Estate to assume the responsibility of preserving and promoting John Rhoden's artistic legacy. The Rhoden Collection includes over 300 works of art and 22 linear feet of archival materials.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Rhoden discovered a talent and passion for sculpting during his youth, was mentored and advised by artists in the South before moving to New York in the late 1930s and made a life in the arts when opportunities for artists of color were still very limited. PAFA’s definitive monographic exhibition and catalogue includes scholarship based on new archival information, presenting Rhoden’s arc from modest background to world-traveling artist. It presents 70 of Rhoden’s sculptures in bronze, wood, and stone, highlighting relationships that defined and supported Rhoden's life and charts his career noting relationships to key figures and institutions in 20th century American art.

“We're excited to present Determined to Be: The Sculpture of John Rhoden to our audiences,” says PAFA President and CEO Eric Pryor. “This unique exhibition, the culmination of years of dedicated work by our staff, continues PAFA’s long tradition of contributing to and expanding the diverse history of American art, while shining a light on a less well-known African American artist and bringing new stories to our visitors.”

Adds Webb, “John Rhoden was a prolific sculptor whose talent and drive sent him around the world and back. His story is as big as his over-life sized sculptures, and I'm thrilled that we all have the opportunity to get more familiar with his work and his legacy through this exhibition.”

A World War II veteran, John Rhoden attended Talladega College and later the New School for Social Research and Columbia University. He subsequently won scholarships to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and a Fulbright Fellowship. He was the first Black visual artist fellow at The American Academy of Rome, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of Art, and won major awards including the Tiffany Award for Sculpture and the Rome Prize. In a 1966 interview about his practice, Rhoden said “I put every feeling, every passion–everything I have–into sculpting.

Someone once asked me why I do it: there are so many easier things. I can only say this: sculpting is my life.” In 1985 the Birmingham Museum of Art mounted a survey of Rhoden’s work until that point in his life. Visit the John Rhoden Digital Archives for a full biography.

Determined to Be: The Sculpture of John Rhoden
Thursday, October 5th, 2023 – Sunday, April 7th, 2024
Public opening reception 6:30-8:30 pm. Advance registration required

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