Until his untimely death in 2006 at age 41, Rhoades carried out a continuous assault on aesthetic conventions and the rules governing the art world, wryly subverting those conditions by activating them within his practice. He conceived his works as part of an ongoing project in which the installations were continuously altered and supplemented. Underpinned by a unique combination of humor and conceptual rigor, his practice redefined and expanded the space in which artworks are both made and exhibited. With a firm belief in the ultimate freedom of expression for artists, Rhoades circumvented notions of taste and political correctness in a candid pursuit of the creative impulse itself.
A seminal early work created for the 1995 Whitney Biennial, My Brother/Brancuzi (1995) includes spare tires, gasoline engines, various tools, wooden crates, and an industrial donut machine in an intricate installation that at once references Rhoades’s brother’s suburban-style bedroom in California and Constantin Brancusi’s Parisian studio. A self-conscious commentary on the significance of an artist’s biographical background, the work also presents a nod to modernism—the crates double as pedestals while the donuts stand in for sculptures—and the use of the “readymade.”
Also on view is The Grand Machine/THEAREOLA (2002), a major component of Rhoades’s wider PeaRoeFoam project. The installation references a “factory” set up in the artist’s studio, where he produced a mixture of green peas, salmon eggs, and white foam that was subsequently packaged in Ivory Snow boxes. Faithful to the studio setup, a karaoke machine was added to the installation, along with the pink neon sign “The Areola,” subtly emphasizing the corporal component of the PeaRoeFoam production. A ramp created with PeaRoeFoam is also on view, as if showcasing the acclaimed, wide-ranging benefits of the mixture, which would turn into hard material when combined with glue. Presented with a small Honda motorcycle nearby, the work underscores the playful, interactive part of the production process.
Partially influenced by 9/11 and the media’s reactions to the “other,” My Madinah: in pursuit of my ermitage (2004) constituted a complex investigation of contemporary manifestations of religion, culture, sexuality, and consumerism. Numerous neon signs spelling out nicknames for the word vagina are suspended above a carpet of adjoining blankets and towels, while a variety of other materials contain further references to the world’s holy cities and places of worship.
Discrete sculptures related to My Madinah will also be on view, including a selection of self-fabricated shelves and chandeliers, where the neon phrases are suspended from a wooden wheel.
Outside the exhibition space are two rarely seen sculptures, which are part of a series of works by Rhoades that involve cars or car parts—ostensibly in an effort to emulate Francis Picabia’s extensive car collection. Yellow Fiero (1994), a Pontiac Fiero, was integral to the artist’s 1994 Swedish Erotica and Fiero Parts installation and specifically chosen for its cultural resonances as an ersatz version of a luxury sports car. Rhoades allegedly bought it from a man who had given it to his daughter so she could “get hitched.” A crossover between a car and outdoor furniture, Rhoades created Anchorimpala SS, Alpinimpala SS (1998) from hand-rolled steel as a sculptural expression of a car, now with different functional qualities.
A selection of videos pertaining to the works on view will also be presented.