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The too-short career of installation artist and farmboy Jason Rhoades




Detail of
Detail of "My Brother/Brancuzi" (1995) by Jason Rhoades at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles. Yes, those are donuts.
John Rabe
Detail of
"My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage" (2004) by Jason Rhoades at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles.
John Rabe
Detail of
"Swedish Erotica and Fiero Parts" (1994) by Jason Rhoades at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles
John Rabe


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"Jason Rhoades. Installations, 1994-2006" is at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in the downtown LA Arts District through May 21, 2017.

The exhibition is conceived to share and celebrate his unwavering vision of the world as an infinite, corpulent, and lustful universe of expressive opportunity. Assertively pushing against the safety of cultural conventions, Rhoades broke accepted rules of public nicety and expanded the frontiers of artistic opportunity through unbridled, brazenly ‘Maximalist’ works. In short, Rhoades brought the impolite and culturally unspeakable to the center of the conversation. -- Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

I asked Iwan Wirth, of the hybrid LA art gallery/museum if Jason Rhoades (1965-2006) did such sprawling installations because he grew up on a farm near Sacramento. No, he said, it's just that the studios in LA, his adopted city, were always bigger than those in other cities where artists typically live and work.

But you still get a sense, at the 6-installation retrospective of the late artist's work -- which takes up 28,000 square feet -- of being in a big pole barn on a farm, where everything that makes up a life is kept ... and all the things you find there give clues to the owner's interior life. So, bongs, a stuffed snake riding an electric train, an entire room laid out like an Ikea showroom, a mosque-like space overhung with neon that spells out nicknames for the vulva, orange extension cords, restaurant shelving.

Artist Jason Rhoades (1965-2006)
Artist Jason Rhoades (1965-2006)
Courtesy estate of Jason Rhoades

It's political, it's personal, it's challenging, and it's immersive. And besides, what other art space has live chickens?

Mat Gleason, of Coagula Curatorial and a frequent Off-Ramp guest, goes the other way on Rhoades in his review for The Huffington Post, in a piece headlined "Is Installation Art the Whitest Privilege?"

But what was good for 1994-2006, the years covered in this survey, may not be good for 2017. Of the six major installations that comprise the show, three feature conglomerations of neon signage spelling out slang terms for women’s genitalia. Little is more ubiquitous to American white male artists born in a certain era than narcissistic relativism, that sentiment that the freedom to do whatever one wants should carry no moral responsibility, allow for any confrontations nor engender any consequences.

Decide for yourself by going to HWS and checking back with us in the comments section. And use the handy audio player above to hear me sample the installations, Paul Schimmel explain Rhoades the artist, Iwan Wirth explain Rhoades the person, and Off-Ramp's Marc Haefele give us Pro-Tips on going to Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. And check out our Facebook page for a few videos of the installations.