This World We Think We Know So Well
Lucas Zwirner and Jason Rhoades, 2000. Courtesy David Zwirner New York/ London.
When I was ten years old, Jason Rhoades gave me a pump-action air rifle–not strong enough to do any real damage, but summer-defining nonetheless. A few years later, he exhibited a sculpture titled PeaRoe Ramp (from Wastewedge, Part of Impetuous Process, 2002), with Embedded HiFi and Honda XR50 (2003). The ramp was precisely what the long title describes: a bike ramp made of a new material Jason had invented called "PeaRoeFoam" (bright green peas, red fish roe, and small white foam pellets mixed together with glue), with a stereo embedded in it (HiFi). It came with a 50cc miniature Honda dirt bike: a child-sized dirt bike, the kind Jason would have ridden growing up in Northern California.
After the show came down, Jason let me use the little bike all summer. I discovered a hidden path off Otis Lane near my family's house in Bellport, and I rallied around there for months, creating obstacle courses, crashing, and driving again. Then, one day in late August, while I was riding in circles on the lawn, a friend of mine aimed Jason's air rifle at me and fired. I swerved, fell down and became hysterical, screaming incoherently the way children often do when they aren't sure how much pain they're really in. I had a bruise the size of a cherry on my back for weeks.
I never got to tell Jason this story–he died the following summer–but he would have loved it. And in a way, for me, it holds clues to one of the most significant aspects of his work.
Jason loved the seemingly insignificant–chance connections and encounters that present themselves over the course of everyday life. He hunted for them, was always alert to them, and when he found one, he would pour his energy and thought into it until the moment became a system of connections, the system a work of art.