Jason Rhoades: A World of Light
By Genie Davis
Through May 21st
Jason Rhoades: 1994-2006 is a comprehensive exhibition that could only be mounted in a space as capacious as Hauser & Wirth. Six installations fill the galleries here, creating a wonderful canvas for the Los Angeles-based artist who passed away in 2006. It’s a true loss – Rhoades’ eye on the world is invigorating, shocking, and profound, all in the largest-writ ways.
Each installation is so encompassing that to truly take it all in, one would need to spend days examining the smallest details. Without that time to spend, absorbing the whole, it’s shape, it’s visual scent if you will, is the best way to take in these encompassing exhibitions.
1994’s “Swedish Erotica and Fiero Parts” is a world of yellow, the color of sunshine and butter. Here are a variety of assemblages, legal pads, styrofoam, what looks like a melted ceramic Menorah, pottery, and white eggs which, of course, are yellow inside.
“My Brother/Brancuzi,” a 1995 installation originally designed for the 1995 Whitney Biennial is a look at modernism that fuses the artist’s suburban bedroom to the studio of Constantin Brancusi. Donuts are made here — a narrow pole spears a stack of them; mechanical objects shape a kind of steam-punk vibe.
With 1998’s “‘The Creation Myth,” viewers are inducted into the work’s subtitle and defining of humanity. “The Mind, the Body and the Spirit, the Shit, Prick and the Rebellious Part” is a subtitle and an exhibit that offers everything from wooden logs wrapped in porn to a succession of stacked tables and a toy train. A still larger work, and one that may very well create the strongest reaction among viewers is “My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage.” Representing a location that is religious in nature, the floor is carpeted with towels, which are themselves dotted with esoteric items such as ceramic figures, crystals, incense, stools. Look up at 240 neon words suspended from the ceiling, ropy extension cords looped between them and running like tentacles down a wall. But these are not any words but rather slang words representing female genitals, such as as the obvious “Cock Pocket” or the more obscure “Fluttering Love Wallet.” The neon light, its rich colors, the sheer number of words, all overwhelms the viewer, and creates a strange world of political incorrectness.
The Black Pussy… and the Pagan Idol Workshop (2005) includes hookah pipes and dreamcatchers, cowboy hats and ultra-violet neon words that once again focus on the female anatomy. This is both a mad scientist’s lab and an extolling of a religion that seems to worship both things and feminine sexuality.
Tijuanatanjierchandelier (2006) follows a different sort of trajectory, exploring tourism in tourist towns. Tijuana and Tangier are the two towns, both offering tchotchkes and trinkets that support Rhoades’ continued pursuit of “pussy words,” here in both English and Spanish, along with objects of conspicuous consumption from purses to hats.
The amazing undertaking of amassing the contents of these installations, shaping them, the gorgeous colors of Rhoades’ neon, his obsession with the sexual, the spiritual, and the consumerist – this is all as vast as an LA freeway. Taking a ride on these “Rhoades” opens the mind and spirit to a strange elixir of art, politics, and geography that has to be seen to fully comprehend.
Hauser Wirth is located at 901 East 3rd Street in DTLA.