Meccatuna, PeaRoeFoam, Tijuanatanjierchandelier. Jason Rhoades’s exhibition titles are an instant gateway to the artist’s obsession with language. For him, words could express humor, critique, transgression, identity—an endlessly compelling and adaptable device. Treating language as an index of culture and an experimental ground, Rhoades gathered words, invented his own terms, and often included English dictionaries in his work. Sometimes controversial and always idiosyncratic, Rhoades’s linguistic playfulness extends into the very fabric of his installations. Tijuanatanjierchandelier, currently on view at the gallery in New York, is filled with Spanish and English slang for female genitalia rendered as glowing neon signs—taboo words and phrases visualizing the “pornographic” excess of information in a media-saturated age (Rhoades, who died in 2006, was always ahead of his time).
One might imagine language moving through Rhoades’s work like a vehicle through Los Angeles, where the car culture deeply inspired him, cruising through an accumulation of contexts, meanings, slogans, and slang, colliding to form hybrids, changing and evolving. “Language is plastic,” the critic and curator Ingrid Schaffner writes; “Not a careful writer, Rhoades used misspelling, bungled semantics, alliteration, spoonerisms, and puns to bend words into powerful tools for driving meaning off course and into all sorts of precarious and ridiculous places.”
Compiled in connection with the succinctly titled exhibition Jason Rhoades: The Purple Penis and the Venus (Installed in the Seven Stomachs of Nürnberg) as Part of the Creation Myth at Kunsthalle Nürnberg in 1998, A Rhoades Referenz is a glossary of terms, some accompanied by drawings or photographs, that was conceived with the artist as a tool to help understand his installations.
Describing the book “as a sort of prosthetic for what he would have said about the work,” Rhoades’s friend and fellow artist Julien Bismuth explained in conversation with the gallery how “the Referenz is great, because in my mind it’s the clearest encapsulation of how he thought about his work, that he had these nodes of explanations, and they cohabited in the same place, and you could structure and restructure them in different networks. It’s very open and fluid.”
Here, just a few examples from the Referenz, with uniquely Rhoades-ian takes on terms such as “Evolution,” “Gesture,” “Dialogue,” and “The Artist”:
December 1, 2017–February 26, 2018
The exhibition, which explored the importance of artists' studios from the post-war period to the present day, included a photograph by Marshall titled Black Artist (Studio View) (2002) and Rhoades's installation Mixing Desk and Chair / Yellow Ribbon in Her Hair (2002).
Designed by the Spanish firm Aranguren + Gallegos Arquitectos, ICA Miami's new 37,500-square-foot location in the city's Design District provides double the exhibition space of its former building, with the addition of a 15,000-foot sculpture garden.
November 12, 2017–April 1, 2018
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center presented an exhibition by Jason Rhoades (1965-2006) featuring a selection of works from The Brant Collection and other significant works from throughout his career. By bringing together iconic installations and rarely seen sculptures, the exhibition offered an insightful look at Rhoades's powerful and persuasive oeuvre. The artist is known for his highly original, large-scale sculptural installations, of which the significant examples My Brother/Brancuzi (1995), The Grand Machine / THEAREOLA (2002), and Untitled (from the body of work: My Madinah: In pursuit of my ermitage…) (2004) will feature in this exhibition. A selection of videos pertaining to the works on view will also be presented.
Until his untimely death in 2006 at age 41, Rhoades carried out a continuous assault on aesthetic conventions and the rules governing the art world, wryly subverting those conditions by activating them within his practice. He conceived his works as part of an ongoing project in which the installations were continuously altered and supplemented. Underpinned by a unique combination of humor and conceptual rigor, his practice redefined and expanded the space in which artworks are both made and exhibited. With a firm belief in the ultimate freedom of expression for artists, Rhoades circumvented notions of taste and political correctness in a candid pursuit of the creative impulse itself.
In a review of the exhibition in Forbes, Clayton Press writes, "Rhoades was an adventurer, who might be called a 4-H Club romantic. The 4-H slogan is 'Learn by Doing.' Rhoades did . . . The complexity of Rhoades's installations is exceptional, often consisting of seemingly countless components. Large installations are filled with smaller ones. Smaller ones are composed of groups and units . . . For The Brant Foundation Art Study Center to undertake this exhibition demonstrates its serious commitment to scholarship."
Wednesday, February 14, 5–7 PM
Open House at The Brant Foundation
The gallery presented Sutter's Mill, an installation by Jason Rhoades, in Art Basel Unlimited 2017.
Sutter's Mill (2000) is Rhoades's reconstruction of Gold Rush pioneer John Sutter's still-extant water-powered sawmill in Coloma in California, near the artist's childhood home. Using aluminum pipes from Rhoades's 1999 Perfect World installation at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the life-size structure was first presented at David Zwirner in New York in 2000. Per the artist's instructions, the installation in Art Basel Unlimited will be constantly dismantled and rebuilt by trained handlers during the course of the fair. Next to the model of the mill, various items including replacement pipes, protective headgear, and polishing cloths are laid out on wooden stands to indicate that work is always in progress.
As the art historian Eva Meyer-Hermann notes, the mill is "a symbol not only of artistic production (signified by the gold), but also of a creative process that in principle will never reach a conclusion and that will also never be available to the recipient in a neatly packaged form." Sutter's Mill was included in the critically acclaimed exhibition Jason Rhoades, Four Roads, which travelled from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia to the Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead in England in 2013-2015.