Introducing the World of
William Rice Rode
We here at Carl Hammer Gallery have had both the honor
and the thrill of representing major self-taught artist discoveries to
the world of fine art for over 35 years. And so, it gives us great
pleasure at this time to present a remarkable body of art work consisting
of a modest five pieces, but, nevertheless, a body of work of incredible
visual power and invention.
The artistís story is 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 during 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, Rode demonstrates a most incredible talent and an
extraordinary level of self-taught genius. His life is visually
self-documented within the work, recalling experiences occurring both
outside and within the insane asylum world from the late 19th
century to the early 20th. Serving as a kind of visual segue
from one autobiographical story vignette to another, Rode employs use of
colorful figurative drawings and sophisticated machine invention
drawings, the latter, perhaps, expressing fantasy rather than serious
design idea, but also having more than a casual Leonardo Da Vinci
reference to them.
The work consists of ink, paint and colored pencil on
fabric. By reading from text on the five pieces, we learn that 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, Rode makes
numerous, specific references of his assignments to insane asylums and
one in particular in Jacksonville, Illinois.
In 1910, while still serving as a mental patient at an
Illinois Mental Hospital, Rode 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.