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Woodwork, spirituality fuse in Rhodes’ artistry

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William Rhodes’ “Female Mermaid” is among the myriad works on view in “What is Your Spiritual Evolution?” at the African American Art & Culture Complex. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • William Rhodes’ “Female Mermaid” is among the myriad works on view in “What is Your Spiritual Evolution?” at the African American Art & Culture Complex.

William Rhodes sees himself as a woodworker by trade and artist by choice. The combination is illustrated most uniquely in the 26 pieces that make up “William Rhodes: What is Your Spiritual Evolution?”

The show of his work is on display at the Sargent Johnson Gallery of the African American Art & Culture Complex through February.

Most notable is the exhibition’s immense variety, from sculpted pieces utilizing mirrors, glass, gold leaf and painted wood to abstract and figurative oil paintings in a variety of formats and styles.

More impressively, the Baltimore-based Rhodes — who also owns a community-themed gallery called St. Paul Art and Design Studio — displays outstanding skill in each of the areas.   

He says he is influenced by travels to Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, which have inspired him to take non-Western approaches to furniture and art. Studying karmic astrology and astrocartography also has prompted him to create works that promote healing.

Exemplifying a powerful artistic sensibility, rich sense of design and skill in furniture-making, Rhodes’ carved-wood piece “Female Mermaid” is strong and beautiful. It also boasts a striking expressiveness; the character’s face has an intense, meaningful look. Also, sensuously sculpted drawer handles on the lower part of the body illustrate how Rhodes fuses his artistry with the skill of a woodworker.

Among the paintings, a 20-by-16-inch semiabstract, “In the Beginning There Was Darkness,” stands out as a black face stares dramatically at the gallery visitor. Rhodes apparently allowed black paint dripping onto a gold leaf background to take the shape of a face, then added eyes, nose and mouth.

If you go: William Rhodes

  • Where: Sargent Johnson Gallery, African American Art & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., S.F.
  • When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; closes Feb. 7
  • Admission: Free
  • Contact: (415) 922-2049, www.aaacc.org
  • Note: Rhodes will give an astrology lecture at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at the center.