Richanda Rhoden

Soloway
348 South 4th St.
August 26, 2018–September 23, 2018

View of “Richanda Rhoden,” 2018.

Richanda Rhoden’s story ended like many others. Her husband’s work found its way into a permanent collection after his death, following a life full of admirable exhibitions and honors. His New York Times obituary mentions her only as his wife. Her obituary in the Brooklyn Heights Press (the Rhodens’ neighborhood publication) mentions him, his work, and finally her “very beautiful paintings,” most of which never left their house—aside from the dozen or so that were selected by her neighbor, Emily Weiner (one of Soloway’s cofounders), for this posthumous first exhibition.

Such a story could easily eclipse the forgotten work itself, but the gallery’s compressed tribute suggests that the prolific artist was also cognizant of how her art was (and wasn’t) being positioned. One of the smallest pieces in the show, Untitled (Mountain), ca. 1970, involves a signature pastel haze in whites and purples, stirred by a full moon. Behind this surface is the titular mountain, which could be the peaked roof of a house. Depicted inside that looming form, a painting within a painting hovers, its frame slightly tilted as if trying to break free. Untitled (Bear), ca. 1970, feels similarly confining if protective: A grizzly folds its arms around a woman whose heart carries a picture of another quivering heart. Both images evoke the constraints of interiority, protection, and domesticity that bound Rhoden’s work from circulation.

Somewhere between exuberant and tortured, the larger paintings feature collisions of warped, laughing devils; ghostly, disembodied limbs; mysterious geometric symbols; and neon-pink streaks of color. The most captivating piece hangs on the back wall of the gallery’s back room. In fleshy pinks, oranges, and a jaundiced yellow, Untitled (Eyes), ca. 1975, illustrates a blizzard of fragmented faces, echoing the Balinese masks Rhoden collected during her travels, some of which hang nearby. In the eye of the storm, the visitor is surrounded by Rhoden’s hallucinatory visions, eager to remain in this world.

— Mira Dayal