ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania
118 South 36th Street
September 18 - December 29
“Jason Rhoades, Four Roads” covers a lot of ground without denying us necessary, numerous, and pleasurable pit stops. Conceived by senior curator Ingrid Schaffner as a road map for navigating Rhoades’s massively complex body of work in the wake of his accidental death in 2006, the artist’s first U.S. survey revolves around four major sculptures—conductors for the themes of Biography, Americana, Systems, and Taboo.
One of the chief feats of the exhibition is creating the impression that even works that aren’t there actually are. Beginning with Garage Renovation New York (Cherry Makita), 1993, the titular piece for his first solo show in New York at David Zwirner, Rhoades voraciously consumed and gleefully recycled imagery and materials from previous works in his search to hammer out a personal iconography. The silver pipes and wood-mounted garden photos in Sutter’s Mill, 2000, an Erector set ode to the legendary structure at the frontier of the California gold rush, originally came from Perfect World, 1999. Created for Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Perfect World was a massive installation of interlacing pipes supporting an upper platform–cum–private garden that Rhoades declared to be the biggest indoor sculpture ever made. In addition to the gleam of the pipes, Rhoades liked the glow of neon. Twenty-two of the 144 neon “pussy words” dangling in orderly rows from the ceiling in Untitled (From My Madinah: In Pursuit of My Ermitage . . .), 2004/2013, assumed a more chaotic scramble in his now legendary invitation-only “Black Pussy Soirée Cabaret Macramé” parties, which he held in his studio in Los Angeles in 2006.
Rhoades liked to say that everything he’d ever made was constitutive of one massive sculpture. It’s a testament to both the consistency of the work and the strength of Schaffner’s curatorial vision that, with only four large-scale sculptures and a shrewd selection of multiples, Rhoades’s entire practice seethes before us.