Eric Rhein

Raised in the Hudson Valley, with childhood summers in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains, Eric Rhein formed a deep affinity with nature—an ongoing inspiration for his work. Rhein’s art—which includes wire drawings, sculpture, mixed media collage, and photography—features a wide iconography shaped by the natural environment: hummingbirds, leaves, deer, and other organic forms. Frequently employing salvaged materials as varied as wire, pages from vintage scientific journals, hardware and jewelry, Rhein imbues these cast-off materials with new life, mirroring his own path as experienced through his evolving relationship with HIV.

A presence in the East Village arts community since 1980 (with fellow artists Greer Lankton, Huck Snyder, Luis Frangella, David Wojnarowicz, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Hujar, Hugh Steers, and Mark Morrisroe—most of whom are in the Visual AIDS Archive), Rhein experienced not only the community’s creative explosion, and also its profound devastation due to the AIDS epidemic.

Diagnosed HIV positive in 1987, Rhein felt compelled to address universal aspects of the human condition.

His series of photographic and sculptural self-portraits, starting in 1991, trace the fluctuations, vulnerability, and resilience of body and spirit. Primarily nudes, these images softly convey a range of experiences and emotions. There is sensuality within in these works—which embrace acceptance, loss, and remembrance—and survival and faith. Portraits of intimate friends, commenced in the 1990’s, compliment this series.

Rhein’s rough and tender marker and mixed-media Hospital Drawings (made during his 1994 “artist-in-residency” at St. Vincent’s Hospital)—as with the whole body of his work—examine the permeable spaces between life and death, the tangible and the ephemeral, and the known and ethereal. Reflecting his metaphysical and spiritual approach to healing, Rhein’s art depicts our collective vulnerability, resilience, and possibilities for transcendence.

In 1996, the year protease inhibitors restored Rhein’s physical vitality, he began his ongoingseries, Leaves, which honors the lives of men and women he knew who died of complications from AIDS. Walking the grounds of the MacDowell artists’ colony, Rhein felt the presence of friends, lovers, and others who had touched his life. Returning to his studio, he rendered the leaf forms in delicate wire, each one expressive of an individual’s spirit. Leaves has now grown to over 250 tributes, existing as both a personal memorial and a reminder of the ongoing toll of the epidemic. Leaves continues to evolve and be shown internationally. Art historian and AIDS activist Robert Atkins wrote, “Art has always played a role in coming to terms with collective tragedy, and the role of an artist has frequently been to bear witness. Surely an art of memory like Eric Rhein’s can help harmonize our views by suggesting that honoring the past is one way to live more fully in the present.”

Following in the footsteps of his uncle Elijah “Lige” Clarke (an early gay rights activist who, with his partner Jack Nichols, co-founded the first national gay weekly newspaper Gay and the Washington Mattachine Society), Rhein relates to his art as a form of activism. In 1994, David Hirsch invited Rhein to a gathering in artist Frank Moore’s loft, where they founded Visual AIDS’ Frank Moore Archive Project, providing support to artists living with HIV/AIDS and protecting the legacies of those who passed.

Rhein received his BFA and MFA degrees through full scholarships at the School of Visual Arts, NY. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues such as: the Victoria and Albert Museum; The New Art Gallery, Walsall, England; the Pera Museum, Istanbul; 21er Haus Museum of Contemporary Art, Vienna; American Embassies in Austria, Cameroon, Greece, and Malta; the Addison Gallery of American Art; the Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ; the Islip Art Museum, NY; the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art; Lincoln Center; Artists Space; Art in General; Sculpture Center; White Columns; The Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Museum of the City of New York; and the Smithsonian

Reviews of Rhein’s work have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, ArtNews, and Art In America. Rhein has received multiple grants and fellowships, including: the Pollock/Krasner Foundation, Art Matters, Edward Albee’s “The Barn,” and the MacDowell Colony.

He is included in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art's "Visual Arts & the AIDS Epidemic Oral History Project”, in which participants are interviewed, in-depth, creating a comprehensive view of their life and work within the context of AIDS.

In 2017 Eric Rhein received Visual AIDS’Vanguard Award for his contributions to AIDS awareness through artwork and activism. This has special meaning for him: Visual AIDS has been a vital part of his life since the mid-90’s.

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SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

Solo Exhibitions

2015

Eric Rhein

Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, NY

Curator: Kris Nuzzi

2014 

The Course of My Life

Curator: Heather Cammarata-Seal, Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters, New Brunswick, NJ

Natural World

39th Street Gallery, Gateway Arts Center, Brentwood, MD

2011

Transmutation

BoxoProjects, New York, NY

2010

Communion

BCB Art, Hudson, NY

2006

The Pencil of Nature

BCB Art, Hudson, NY

Journey Among Warriors

The Leslie/Lohman Gallery, New York, NY

Uncle Lige’s Sword

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New York, NY

2005

Leaves

Frieda and Roy L. Fuhrman Gallery, Walter Read Theater, Lincoln Center, New York, NY

2004

Anthropomorphosis

Bob Howard, Fire Island Pines, NY

2000

A Gathering

The Schoolhouse Center, Provincetown, MA

1999

Leaves

David Lusk Gallery, Memphis, TN

Interior Structure

Froelick Gallery, Portland, OR

1998

The Course of My Life

Richard Anderson Fine Arts, New York, NY

Human Biology

New York Public Library-Donnell Library Center, New York, NY

1997

Room Ten-36

Art in General, New York, NY

Eye on a Sparrow

Froelick Adelhart, Portland, OR

In the Company of Shadows

Tricia Collins/Grand Salon, New York, NY

1992

Still -an installation

AIDS Forum, Sculpture Center, New York, NY

1986

26 Objects -an installation

Stockholm Mobile Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden

Group Exhibitions

2015

Andras Borocz, Nancy Grossman, Eric Rhein

Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, NY

2014 

Ephemera As Evidence

Curators: Joshua Lubin-Levy & Ricardo Montez, La MaMa Galleria, New York, NY

InsideOUT

Fulton Street Gallery, Troy, NY

Round Hole, Square Peg

Artist’s Corner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2013 

Nocturnal

BCB Art, Hudson, NY

Tweet

Curator: Jil Weinstock, The Children’s Museum of the Arts, New York, NY

No Man is an Island: The Masculine Landscape in the 21st Century

Curator: Sarah Schmerler, Print Center of New Jersey, Branchburg, NJ

Recent Acquisitions

The Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York NY

Round Hole, Square Peg

Smart Close Gallery, 154 Stanton Street, New York, NY

Not Over:25 Years of Visual AIDS

Curators: Kris Nuzzi and Sur Rodney (Sur), La MaMa Galleria, New York, NY

Art Meets Art: Perspectives On And Beyond Olana

Curator: Richard Roth, Hudson Opera House and Olana, Hudson, NY

Secrets, Loss, Memory, And Courage

Addison Gallery of American Art,Philips Academy, Andover, MA

2012

This Land

BCB Art, Hudson, NY

The Sexuality Spectrum

Curator: Laura Kruger, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute Of Religion Museum

New York, NY

Abstract Realities

Curator: Hal Bromm, Hal Bromm , New York, NY

Pegasus

Christina Grajales Gallery, New York, NY

Abstraction: What is Real

Edelman Arts, New York, NY

Figured

Curator: Kris Nuzzi, BRIC Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

St, Sebastian: 1530-2011

Curtators: Asher Edelman and Ashley Dillman, Edelman Arts,

New York, NY

2011

Ossessione Verde

Curator: Peter Weiermair, The Faveri Gallery Of Contemporary Art, Bologna, Italy

Apocryphal, Traditional, et al

Curators: Shannon Morris and Jon Coffelt, GCSU Museum, Milledgeville, GA

In Bloom

Curator: Karen Shaw, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY

Naked in New Hope

Curators: Paul Murphy and Ricky Godinez, New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery, New Hope, PA

2010

Local Self Portraits

Curator: Richard Roth, Hudson Opera House, Hudson, NY

2009

Octet

Curators: Suzanne Anker and Peter Hristoff, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey

Arbor Day-A Celebration in Art

Curator: Robert Yoner, The National Arts Club, New York, NY

2008

Timeless: The Art of Drawing

Curator: Ann Aptaker, Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ

ART in Embassies Program

Curator: Imtiaz Hafiz, Ambassadorial residence, Yaounde, Cameron

The Great Gay Photo Show

Curator: Charles Leslie, The Leslie/Lohman Gallery, New York, NY

Wired

Curator: Walter O’Neill, Ernest Rubenstein Gallery, The Educational Alliance, New York, NY

2007

Naked in New Hope

Curators: Paul Murphy and Ricky Godinez, New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery, New Hope, PA

2006

Animal House

Curator: Karen Shaw, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY

Between Ten

Curator: Visual AIDS, Visual Works of a Positive Mind, XVI International AIDS Conference,

Toronto Canada

Bestiary

Froelick Gallery, Portland OR

2005

Flower Power

Curator: Buster Seccia, Barbara Ann Levy Gallery, Fire Island Cherry Grove, NY

Vintage East Village

Curator: Rick Prol, Hal Bromm, New York, NY

2004

Hot New Work

Curator: Buster Seccia, Barbara Ann Levy Gallery, Fire Island Cherry Grove, NY

Hidden Histories

Curator: Michael Petry,The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, London

2003

Share Your Vision

Artists Space, New York, NY

Weather Report

Curator: Craig Bunting, Gallery for the Arts, Mount Sterling, KY

Jewish Community Center, Louisville KY

1999

Millennium Messages

Curator: Barbara Coller, Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition

Small Works

Ledbetter Lusk Gallery, Mephis, TN

Radiant Children: Art of the East Village - 1980's

Curators: Jonathan Weinberg & Joel Handorff, Lamia Ink!, New York, NY

Four Artists

Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University, New Haven, CN

Plant Forms

Froelick Adelhart, Portland, OR

1998

Paper

Froelick Adelhart, Portland, OR

Male

Curator: Vince Aletti, Wessel & O’Connor Gallery, New York, NY

1997

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Curator: Cassandra Langer, Ph.D., White Columns, New York, NY

Form and Function of Drawing

Curator: Peter Weiermair, Art Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany

Conversion

Tricia Collins/Grand Salon, New York, NY

A Living Testament of the Blood Fairies

organized by Geoff Hendricks, Frank Moore, and Sur Rodney (Sur)

of the Archive Project/Visual AIDS

Printed Matter, New York, NY

1996

Me, Myself, and I

ArtGroup for Lesbian and Gay Artists

La Mama La Galleria, New York, NY

Arts’ Communities: AIDS Communities: realizing The Archive Project

Boston Center the Arts, Boston, MA

1995

The First 10

The Archive Project, PS 122 Gallery, New York, NY

Phallic Symbols: Phallic Images in Contemporary Art

Curator: Hal Bromm

24 Hours for Life Gallery, New York, NY

1994

Stonewall

Curator: Bill Arning

White Columns, New York, NY

The Underwear Show

La Mama La Galleria, New York, NY

1991

Personal Adornment

Textile Arts Center, Chicago, IL

1990

Monumental Municipalities

The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY

1989

Selections from the Artist’s File

Curator: Cornelia Butler

Artists Space, New York, NY

1988

The Small Works Show

Curator: Lisa Philips

BACA Downtown, Brooklyn, NY

1987

Fashion and Surrealism

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England,

Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY

Friends from the Heart -an installation

Spiral Building, Tokyo, Japan

1985

Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Evansville, IN

1981

Adornment

Ibu Gallery, Paris, France


CORPORATE AND PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Addison Gallery of American Art,Philips Academy, Andover, MA

Leslie Lohman Gay Art Foundation, New York, NY

North Dakota Museum of Art – Barton Lidice Benes Collection, Grand Forks, ND

Porter, Orlin Inc. New York, NY

Portland Art Museum – Gilkey Center for the Graphic Arts, Portland, OR

The MacDowell Colony

The American Embassy in Malta

The West Collection at SEI, Oaks, PA


GRANTS

1998 Pollock-Krasner Foundation

1998 Peter S. Reed Foundation

1996 Art Matters

1995 John Giorno Poetry Systems

1994 Adolph and Esther Gottlieb

1993 Art Matters

1990 Pollock-Krasner Foundation


RESIDENCIES

1999 The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire

1996 The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire

1994 The Barn, Edward Albee Foundation, Montauk, Long Island, NY


EDUCATION

2000

School of Visual Arts, New York, NY

MFA Full Scholarship

1984

School of Visual Arts, New York, NY

BFA Painting and Sculpture

Full Scholarship


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Periodicals

Akesson, Bengt. Artist Profile: Clic Magazine -Sweden, December 1986

Atkins, Robert.Essay: "How to Make Art in an Epidemic”, POZ, April 1999

Atkins, Robert. Review: Village Voice, June 8, 1994

Brantley, Ben. Artist Profile: Vanity Fair, November 1989

Brass Perry Review: “Eric Rhein: AIDS and the Hummingbirds Warrior” Huffington Post,

February 15, 2015

Bunting, Craig Essay: “Weather Report”, Arts Across Kentucky, Spring 2003

Cotter, Holland.Essay: "Art and AIDS: The Stuff Life is Made Of”, Art in America,

April 1997

Cotter, Holland.Review: New York Times, January 17, 1997

Cotter, Holland. Review: New York Times, April 21, 1995

Barbara A. MacAdam Review: “Words of a Feather”, Art News, January 2014

Dijknmans, Marie-Louise.Artist Profile: Dutch Elle Magazine, March 1993

Editor, New York Times Letter To The Editor: “When Plagues End”, New York Times,

Section 6, December 1996

Fitzpatrick, Laurie. Artist Profile: A&U Magazine, issue #27, November 1996

Hedquist, Hedvig.Review: Svenska Dagbladet -Sweden, October 1986

Hirsch, David. Review: New York Native, December 28, 1992

Jackson, Erik. Interview: "Leaves of Absence”, Time Out New York, issue #140,

May 28., 998

James McDonald Artists Profile: “Eric Rhein: The Course of My Life” Out Magazine,

December 1, 2014

Johnson, Ken. Review: New York Times, November 20, 1998

Kahlke, Dunbar, Cheryl Artist Profile: Fire Island Tide, August 3, 2007

Koide, Yukiko. Artist Profile: Figaro, no. 48, -Japan, February 1994

Editor, New York Times Letter To The Editor: “When Plagues End”, New York Times,

Section 6, December 1996

Liu, Robert. Artist Profile: Ornament Magazine, Fall 1989

McQuaid, Cate Review: “Addison show frames 20th century’s gay male life”, Boston Globe

June 11, 2013

Merla, Partric Artist Portfolio: “Excerpt”, The James White Review, Vol. 16 , No. 1, Winter 1999

Oswald Alina Review: “Ephemera as Evidence” A&U Magazine, issue #237, July 2014

Nichols, Jack Artist Profile: “Kentucky Artist Gains National Recognition” The Letter, October 1998

Renee, Thomas, Natasha Artist Profile: “New York Artist Brings Work and Words to Ames”

The Tribune, Ames Iowa, Volume 4, No.48, November 29, 1997

Sean Black Artist Profile, “Possibilities of Transcendence” A&U Magazine, December 1, 2014

Sischy, Ingrid.Portfolio: "Eyes of March”, Interview Magazine, March 1990

Slesin, Suzanne. Artist Profile: New York Times, July 25, 1991

Snellen, Wayne Recent Donations & Acquisitions, The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie/Lohman

Gay Art Foundation, # 38, Spring 2011

Snellen, Wayne Notes on the Leslie-Lohman Collection: The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, #47, Autumn 2013

Sokolowski, Tom. Review: Art + Text no. 49, Australia, 1994

Strong, Lester Artist Profile: A&U Magazine, December 2006

Von Uchtrup, Michael Artist Profile: “The Fine Art Of Remembering”

The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, #21, Autumn 2006

Walsh, Richard Artist Profile: Metrosource, February/March, 2006

Wilson, Beth Artist Profile: “The Pencil Of Nature”, Chronogram, October, 2006

Wolford, Lisa. Artist Profile: Interview Magazine, October 1989

Rakan Magazine Artist Profile: (Preimere Issue) -Japan, 1986


Books

Lewin, Susan Grant. One of a Kind: American Art Jewelry Today, Abrams Publishers, 1994

Lubin-Levy & Matta Carlos Petite Mort: Recollections of a Queer Public

Forever & Today, Inc., 2011

Petry, Michael Nature Morte: Contemporary artists reinvigorating the Still-Life

Thames & Hudson, 2013

Petry, Michael. Hidden Histories, Art Media Press, 2004

Martin, Richard. Fashion and Surrealism, Rizzoli Publisher, 1987

Slesin, Suzanne. New York Style, Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1992

Visual AIDS Not Over: 25 Years OF Visual AIDS

Visual AIDS, 2013

Weiermair, Peter Treasures of Gay Art: From the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation

All Saints Press, 2008


Catalogues

Ephemera As Evidence Visual AIDS publication, in conjunction with exhibition at La Ma Ma Galleria, New York, NY, 2014

Not Over: 25 Years of Visual AIDS Visual AIDS publication, in conjunction with exhibition at La Ma Ma Galleria, New York, NY, 2013

Remembering Paul Monette Addison Gallery of American Art, 2013

Figured, BRIC Rotunda Gallery, 2012

Ossessione Verde, Vanillaedizioni, for exhibition Ossessione Verde

The Faveri Gallery Of Contemporary Art, Bologna, Italy, 2011

Octet: Selected Works from School of the Visual Arts, New York

Pera Museum 36, Istanbul, 2009

Timeless: The Art Of Drawing Morris Museum, 2008

Untied States Embassy Yaounde, Cameroon Art in Embassies Exhibition, 2006

Share Your Vision Visual AIDS publication, in conjunction with exhibition at Artists Space, 2003

Popism / Stars and Stripes Forever / The Estate Project

Yale University Art Gallery and Jonathon Edwards College, 1999

Give Life to Art: The First Step Gallery (=) Positive and Visual AIDS, 1996

The First 10: The Archive Project Visual AIDS, 1995

Selections from the Artists File Artist Space, 1989

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