From the mid 1950s through the end of his career, one could argue that John Rhoden’s most significant works came in the form of public art commissions. During this time, he produced major monumental works for public and private institutions in New York, Pennsylvania, and Alabama. The resulting works range from fully abstract to portraits, and everything in between. Because of their public nature, they seem to have become among the most iconic pieces of Rhoden’s artwork. Get to know these commissions below, and explore them further using the rich information present in the archives.
Location: Sheraton Hotel Philadelphia, stairway #9 in the ballroom
Medium: various metals and jewel glass
The three chandeliers in the ballroom measure 15 feet across and 6 feet in height. They are of bronze, freely molded to represent signs of the zodiac. Melted glass in jewel colors (ruby, amethst, aqua, and royal blue) is annealed at intervals into the bronze. Illuminated by hidden lights, the chandeliers have something of the effect of stained glass windows in abstract designs.
Title: A Happy Family is the Core of a Healthy Community
Location: Harlem Hospital
Dimension: 22' x 16'
On January 6, 1965, John Rhoden was awarded a sculpture commission of $18,000 to prepare and design a small scale model to be considered for the entrance of the Harlem Hospital. His design was approved and in April of 1966, a contract was made for Rhoden to begin work on the full-size rendition of the piece - a four-figured sculpture of a family surrounding the Caduceus - a symbol used in this case to represent medical practice.
Location: Metropolitan Hospital, East Harlem, New York City
"Monumental Abstraction" is on view on one wall of Metropolitan Hospital on 97th Street and 2nd Avenue.
Location: Bellevue Hospital Center, 462 First Avenue in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City
This sculpture is an abstracted rendition of mitochondria, an organelle found in living cells. The work demonstrates Rhoden's interest and fascination with science. The sculpture is placed outside the Bellevue Hospital as a symbol of life.
Location: African American Museum in Philadelphia, 7th and Arch Streets, Philadelphia, PA
Materials: bronze, brick base
Dimensions: Height 9′, width 2'7", depth 2' (base height 3′, width 5')
This commission was an official project of America’s bicentennial celebration for the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The forms of Nesaika suggest the traditional sculptures of Africa; the title, however, derives from a word meaning “we,” “us,” or “our” in the Chinook Indian trade language of America’s West Coast. The bronze was cast by the age-old cire perdue (lost wax) process known on the western coast of Africa. According to Rhoden, the mask-like image at the top symbolizes “the wholeness of the shape of the universe.”
Location: Lincoln University, Lincoln University, PA 19352
Dimension: 9 feet
The nine-foot bronze figurative sculpture was a monument to the great abolitionist and orator. It was donated by Lincoln alumni and brothers, Clyde Atwell ’37, Selwyn R. Atwell ’41 and Dr. George L. Atwell ’48 and originally unveiled and located at the center of campus during Homecoming week in October 1989. In 2011, the statue was relocated to a walkway between Frederick Douglass, McRary and Ashmun residence halls.
Location: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, AL 35203
The Fred Shuttlesworth statue is a sculpture depicting Birmingham Civil Rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth. The bronze monument was unveiled on November 14, 1992 during the dedication of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
The statue sits on a modest plinth with the following inscription: Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth Birmingham's Civil Rights Freedom Fighter With singular courage he fired the imagination and raised the hopes of an oppressed people.
Location: Harry Chapin Playground Columbia Heights at, Middagh St, Brooklyn, NY 11201