Last Glance: Kansas City Artist David Rhoads Heads East

New York lands “A Great One.”

David Rhoads, a promising young artist known for his intense small paintings exploring themes of quest and longing, is leaving Kansas City for New York this fall, where he will set up a new art studio and begin a new job as collections specialist in the department of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Since graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010, Rhoads has exhibited his work locally at City Ice Arts, Block Artspace and the 1522 St. Louis Gallery in the West Bottoms. Last winter he had a one-person show at the Ford Gondo gallery in St. Louis.

Rhoads’ day job as an associate preparator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has been a primary source of inspiration for his work. The museum’s extraordinary Arikara buffalo shield inspired an ongoing series called “The Great One”; his contact with paintings by Marsden Harley and Paul Cezanne can be discerned in his visionary landscapes. But Rhoads’ signature image is a splayed figure based on the constellation Orion, which he employs as a symbol of quest.

Rhoads has gained many admirers during his time in Kansas City, including the Nelson’s curator of American Indian art, Gaylord Torrence. The two worked closely on the blockbuster 2014-15 “The Plains Indians” show, curated by Torrence and shown in Paris, at the Nelson-Atkins and at the Met in New York.

“I admire his art enormously,” Torrence said. “It’s some of the most unselfconscious work I’ve ever seen.  It’s intuitive; it has a lovely intimacy. But you know that this is an artist who’s really looking outside himself to a larger world. He’s finding meaning, and he’s compressing this into a set of images that recur in almost endless variation.”

Torrence also praised the “amazing analytical precision” Rhoads brought to his work as a preparator, and said the Nelson will be sorry to lose Rhoads to the Met: “They’ve got a treasure and we have lost one,” he said.

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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