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Introducing the World of William Rice Rode


We at the Carl Hammer Gallery have had both the honor and the thrill of representing major self-taught artist discoveries to the world of fine art over the years.  As we approach this year’s sojourn to New York City to participate in two of this country’s finest expositions dedicated to presenting the best of self-taught art to the art collecting community, it gives us great pleasure to unveil a modest body of only five pieces of art work, but a body of work consisting of incredible visual power and invention.

 A story not dissimilar to that of the amazing saga of Martin` Ramirez, William Rice Rode, an immigrant to the U.S., was apparently a man who became afflicted by mental illness at some point in time in his adult life.   In fact, what we know most about this man, comes to us from his art.  In a cryptic, rambling, stream-of-conscious development manner, combining both text and pictorial imagery, Wm. R. Rice demonstrates a most incredible talent and an extraordinary level of self-taught genius.  His life is visually self-documented recalling experiences occurring both outside and within the insane asylum world from the late 19th century to the early 20th.

 The work consists of ink and paint on fabric.  Reading from text on the five pieces, the artist was originally from Denmark and lived in several locations in the U.S., starting from NYC, moving on to various towns throughout the Mid-West and primarily Illinois.  Throughout the disconnected story-telling vignettes written on these fabric pieces, Rice makes numerous references to his assignments to insane asylums and one in particular in Jacksonville, Illinois. 

In 1910, still serving as a mental patient at an Illinois Mental Hospital, Rice allegedly gave away these five pieces of art work, all sewn together, bound like a book at one end, to a Dr. Charles F. Applegate who was possibly superintendant of the hospital at the time.  These pieces were handed down to descendants within the Applegate family from that time forward. 

 As mentioned earlier, all five pieces have a considerable amount of rambling text, colored figurative drawings and autobiographical story vignettes written on them, but none are specifically titled.  The machines drawn on each have a kind of inventive, Leonardo Da Vinci quality to them though, perhaps, they are more fantasy than serious invention/design ideas.

 We are happy to be able to present and offer this body of work for the first time ever to the art collecting world.



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