Selden Rodman Gallery of Popular Arts, B-Wing
World-renowned collection of Haitian art and related self-taught art continues on view
The Popular Arts remain—mainly but not exclusively—products of the so-called underdeveloped countries: paintings and sculptures by untrained, self-educated artists close to the folk by heredity or feeling, who instinctively rediscover the secrets of the masters. It was no accident that popular art began to flourish when high art itself had lost touch with life around it, and on the peripheries of societies already fractured into rival camps of academics and outcasts. — Selden Rodman
The Selden Rodman Gallery of Popular Arts is dedicated to the display of one of the foremost collections of popular arts, the Selden Rodman Collection opened at Ramapo College in 2001. The gallery was built to house the expanded collection, which was originally donated to the College in the early 1980s.
Selden Rodman was a noted collector, poet and critic, and is widely considered to be the figure most responsible for spreading the legacy of Haitian art in the 20th century. For more than sixty years Rodman, who died in 2002, immersed himself in Haitian life and culture. His passion and that of his wife Carole was the doorway for many to discover the powerful visual expressions there, resulting in an explosion of interest in Haitian art in Haiti, the United States, and around the world. Rodman was co-director, alongside DeWitt Peters, of the renowned Centre d’Art in Haiti, and also directed the famous murals at Cathedral Sainte Trinite (destroyed by the earthquake in 2010). Rodman’s influential writings established a hierarchy of value and provided a flavorful and accessible record of Haitian art developments.
The Selden Rodman Collection of Popular Arts is one of the foremost in the world devoted to Haitian art, but its range extends to include “self-taught” artists from North America, Brazil, Mexico, and elsewhere. In addition to rotating exhibitions from the collection, pieces from several related Ramapo collections occasionally go on view in the gallery including the Morris/Svehla Collection and the Thompson Collection. The Rodman Gallery also features special exhibitions and loans from prestigious private collections, as well as exhibitions showcasing individual artists. Additionally, collection works are occasionally incorporated into exhibitions in the Berrie Center Kresge and Pascal Galleries, introducing more contemporary perspectives on self-taught and outsider art, while attracting new audiences.
In recent years, as the historical significance of the collections and Rodman’s contributions has increased, requests by scholars and others to utilize the collection have grown. Selections from the collection have also been featured in numerous important museum exhibitions and publications.
Another Rodman Collection consisting of fewer works is housed in the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven. For more on Selden Rodman’s life, please visit Yale University Library’s digital archive of the Selden Rodman papers (http://discover.odai.yale.edu/ydc/Record/3447771).
Hector Hyppolite, La Cuilleuse des
Fleurs, oil, gift of Jonathan Demme
Levoy Exil, Banana Moon Queen,
oil, Morris/Svehla Collection
Senêque Obin, Haiti, Christophe, Family and Citadel, 1960, oil on board, Rodman Collection, Ramapo College of New Jersey