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The Selden Rodman Gallery of Popular Arts of the Americas and the Caribbean Opens at Ramapo College

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)October 3, 2001

(Mahwah) – A new gallery, dedicated to the display of one of the foremost collections of popular arts of the Americas and the Caribbean, the Selden Rodman Collection, will open at Ramapo College of New Jersey Saturday, October 13 with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The gallery is located in B-130. Folk art scholar and author Randall Morris will discuss the collection at 6 p.m.

From the profoundly religious to the decorative, the visions in the collection offer many things to gallery visitors. These colorful masterworks of “popular arts” feature artists from the Americas and the Caribbean, giving us a rich multicultural link to the developing history of the African Diaspora and the arts. While the Ramapo College collection is one of the foremost in the world devoted to Haitian art, its range extends to include “self-taught” North American artists and outstanding Mexican and Brazilian painters.

Portions of the collection, which were included in an exhibition at the Monmouth Museum in June 1999, were reviewed in the New York Times, which stated, “Much of the best-known popular and folk art takes the form of painting, as does a majority of what is on view here, but many of the most striking works here are sculptures.” The reviewer continues, “. . . these are the works one is tempted to call masterpieces.”

For more than 60 years Selden Rodman has immersed himself in Haiti’s 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. Today Haiti’s Cathedral Ste. Trinité boasts murals by native artists spurred into being by Selden Rodman. Both Le Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince and the Haitian Art Center in New York City were co-founded by Rodman. In addition, Rodman has written the standards on Haitian art and tourism. Dan Bischoff, writing in the Newark Star-Ledger at the time of the Monmouth Museum exhibition, called Rodman “. . .one of the original American Johnny Appleseeds of modern naïve painting, first in Haiti and then throughout Latin America and the Caribbean Basin.”

Selden Rodman first went to Haiti in 1934. “At that time,” he has said, “all the art was underground. My first impression was that the artists were fully formed and had genius. They were ready to be shown and appreciated.” So, instead of opening an art school – the original intention of DeWitt Peters, an American artist living in Haiti – Rodman and Peters opened an exhibition space, Le Centre d’Art. Rodman has tirelessly promoted Haitian art ever since.

According to catalogue-essayist Morris, the Selden Rodman Collection reflects cultural threads from places other than Haiti. “Kamante Gatura charts with an ancient knowing eye the lore of the animal savanna in Kenya; Kapo and Ras Dizzy from Jamaica record the Revival and Rasta worldviews; and the Ayalas document Mexican folkways. Every work in this compilation is the tip of an iceberg of information.”

Rotating exhibitions from the collection will be presented on a regular basis as well as special exhibitions including loaned works. The Collection has been fully catalogued to museum standards, and a Web page describing the Collection is under development in order to make it more accessible to scholars. A color catalogue is with an essay by Randall Morris is available.

As an academic institution with an international mission, Ramapo College is the fortunate repository of the Selden Rodman Collection. The initial donation of art from the Rodmans was made in 1983, with subsequent additions in later years. Another Rodman Collection consisting of fewer works is housed at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven.

Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The gallery is open to visiting scholars by appointment.. For more information, call Gallery Director Sydney Jenkins, (201) 684-7147.

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About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Niche.com.

Ramapo College provides its students with individualized attention, mentorship, and supports; hands-on learning; and a range of opportunities for service and leadership development. Its graduation and retention rates exceed national averages and it places approximately 1,000 students per year in internships in New York City. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice; is recognized as the state’s top college on the list of Best Disability Schools by Great Value Colleges; is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools; and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others.  

Ramapo College’s over 40,000 alumni are the confident, intellectually curious, self-aware, and humble people who are highly sought after and who make a positive impact at local, national, and global levels.  Ramapo College is distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by CollegesofDistinction.com. Every student at Ramapo is enrolled in its unique and award winning Pathways Program which equips and empowers students, across the continuum of their academic career, to secure internships, pursue graduate/professional school, and/or enter the job market. 

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

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