"Raised in New York’s Hudson River Valley, and spending childhood summers in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, Eric Rhein formed a deep affinity with nature–a continuing inspiration for his multidisciplinary work. Including wire drawings, sculpture, mixed media collage, and photography, Rhein’s art features a vast personal iconography shaped by the natural environment, such as hummingbirds, leaves, deer and other organic forms. Frequently employing salvaged materials as varied as wire, plates and pages from vintage scientific journals, hardware and jewelry, Rhein imbues these cast-off materials with new life, mirroring his own spiritual path as experienced through his evolving relationship with HIV.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and exhibiting as an openly HIV-positive artist since 1992, Rhein felt called to use his experiences to address universal aspects of the human condition. From his photographic series of self-portraits, spanning 1991-1999 (which document his physical vulnerability and eventual revitalization with the availability of new HIV medications in 1996) to his visionary magic marker and mixed media Hospital Drawings (made during his 1994 “artist-in-residency” at St. Vincent’s Hospital), Rhein examines the liminal spaces between life and death, the tangible and the ephemeral, and the known and the ethereal. Reflecting his own metaphysical and spiritual approach to healing, Rhein’s art depicts our collective vulnerability, resilience, and possibilities for transcendence.
A presence in the East Village arts community since 1980, with fellow artists Greer Lankton, Luis Frangella, David Wojnarowicz, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Hujar and Mark Morrisroe, Rhein experienced not only the community’s creative renaissance, but also its profound devastation due to HIV/AIDS." (...)