David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of American artist Jason Rhoades’s large-scale installation Tijuanatanjierchandelier, on view at 519 West 19th Street. First installed at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Málaga, Spain, in 2006, and then featured the following year at the 52nd Venice Biennale, this exhibition marks the first presentation of Tijuanatanjierchandelier in New York. This significant work—one of several installations made during the latter part of the artist’s career—exemplifies Rhoades’s singular investigation of contemporary consumer culture, his career-long interest in probing both language and identity, and his ceaseless drive to push the limits of convention.
Rhoades emerged in the 1990s as one of the most formally and conceptually rigorous artists of his time. During his short but prolific career he became known for highly original, large-scale sculptural installations, which incorporate various materials inspired by Los Angeles car culture and his upbringing in rural Northern California, as well as by a mixture of historical and contemporary global and regional influences that he explored throughout his life. Until his untimely death, in 2006 at age 41, Rhoades carried out a continual assault on aesthetic conventions and the rules governing the art world, wryly subverting those conditions by integrating them into his practice. He conceived his works as part of an ongoing project, to which objects were continuously added, assembled, and reassembled in various configurations.
As Rhoades’s friend, fellow artist and writer Julien Bismuth, notes: “When Jason tackles a cultural topic, he does it in a deliberately dispersed and multi-perspectival way. He culls viewpoints, references, lingos, incidents, objects, [and] trends, and recomposes them to produce his complex and intricate installations. He doesn’t present arguments or judgements on a situation; he shows its landscape and the plurality of voices—major and minor—that occupy it.” Through his unique visual aesthetic and the conceptual depth of his work, Rhoades complicated the boundaries between the sacred and the profane, the physical and the immaterial, challenging social, political, and linguistic structures and revealing the complexities and contradictions of our globalized, interconnected era.
Image: Installation view, Jason Rhoades: Tijuanatanjierchandelier, David Zwirner, New York, 2019
“A perfect work of art, I believe, uses things in it and feeds on things and runs on its own momentum. It’s able to have the capacity to grab other things out of culture and use them…. It is important that each piece creates a territory for me to go in…. I am interested in situations which open things up.” —Jason Rhoades in conversation with Eva Meyer-Hermann on the occasion of the artist’s solo exhibition Jason Rhoades: Perfect World, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 1999
A complex conflation of locations, products, and cultures, Tijuanatanjierchandelier fills the space with a mass of “chandelier” sculptures suspended over an arrangement of mattresses, rugs, and other items. Each chandelier is a distinct sculpture composed of neon lights and other objects strung together with rope, electrical cords, and wire that Rhoades purchased from Home Depot or Costco—everyday outlets he would refer to as his “art supply stores.”
An array of items, from fake handbags to sombreros, lanterns, leather belts, ceramic gourds, taxidermied animal heads, and maracas, evoke tourist markets or souvenir stands that speak in turn to transcultural consumerism in a world where travel is affordable and goods are cheap. Spread throughout the installation, more than two hundred glowing neon expressions (slang for female genitalia in Spanish and English) reflect the artist’s constant engagement with language and taboo.
Made in the last year of the artist’s life, Tijuanatanjierchandelier reflects Rhoades’s many-layered engagement with language, identity, consumption, industry, and exhibition-making in a transcultural, globalized world.
“Many people at first sight think it's just a mess of stuff,” the curator Eva Meyer-Hermann explains in an interview with the gallery: “Actually, it’s pretty ordered and there’s a system… I think this complexity and this kind of thoroughness, but also this very, very energy-consuming moment or moments have always been very positive, very productive—positive thinking about making sense of all this, what’s around us, and that flows on to us every day. I think that’s the most compelling thing for me.”
Throughout his career, Rhoades sought to raise questions, rather than providing solutions. “I like that [the works] exist because they draw us back in,” he said in 1991. “I want to be understood, but I just want you to work a little harder to do it. Move as much material as I do.”