Capitalist chaos: a major survey of Jason Rhoades takes Los Angeles by storm

Los Angeles gallery
Los Angeles gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel brings together six installations by Jason Rhoades created between 1994 and the artist’s death in 2006. Pictured, Tijuanatanjierchandelier, 2006. © The Estate of Jason Rhoades. Courtesy of the estate, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner and lender.
(Image credit: Fredrik Nilsen)

Not many artists can fill 28,000 square feet of gallery space with just six works.

This week the late great Jason Rhoades has done that, with his largest ever exhibition in his hometown of Los Angeles, recently opened at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. A survey of this kind on Rhoades – who died in 2006, aged 41 – has been in order in LA for some time.

My Madinah

Detail of ’My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage...’, 2004

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Rhoades was a graduate of UCLA, where his professors included Paul McCarthy and Chris Burden, and he continued to live and work in the city his whole life; but it’s only now that curator Paul Schimmel has traced the trajectory of Rhoades’ career in its Californian context. The six installations span two decades, and have been carefully selected to summarise the artist’s interests and the subjects that preoccupied his practice: sex, politics, religion, art, race and gender.

The nineties works – Swedish Erotic and Fiero Parts, (1994), My Brother/Brancuzi, (1995), The Creation Myth (1998) – give a strong overview of Rhoades experimentation from early on, and his innovative way of visualising the new, technology and consumer driven, networked way of thinking. His mass assemblages of this era are materially synaptic, perhaps most in My Brother/Brancuzi, a work created for the Whitney Biennial in 2005, that leaps from his brother’s suburban bedroom to modernism through piles and piles of stuff.

The Black Pussy

The Black Pussy... and the Pagan Idol Workshop’, 2005

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The later works, right up to his last – Tijuananatanjierchandelier (2006) – tug you towards another issue: the search for the ‘ultimate pussy word’. Of course, behind the puerile pursuit in neon lights, Rhoades points to the way language and culture, in a transnational era, condition our thoughts about gender and sexuality.

There is also comfort in Rhoades’ capitalist chaos: the irresistible warmth and light that emanates from his materials and embraces you. In their unabashed, at times brash, maximalism, unapologetic in their physical scale, Rhoades didn’t see any of his works as complete — but in this exhibition, they take you on a journey.

Jason Rhoades Hauser Wirth Schimmel

Tijuanatanjierchandelier, 2006, is the most recent work on show, and raises questions about consumerism in relation to disparate cultures and classes by exploring tourism in analogous third world border towns: Tijuana, Mexico and Tangier, Morocco

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My Madinah

My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage..., 2004, was designed as a bipolar transmission and reception station

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Detail of My Madinah

Detail of My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage..., 2004

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In The Creation Myth

In The Creation Myth, 1998, Rhoades sought to understand why, how, and what humans create by exploring creationist and evolutionist theories in tandem

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Swedish Erotica and Fiero Parts

Swedish Erotica and Fiero Parts, 1994, is Rhoades' only work to specifically reference the urban and cultural landscape of his native LA. His deep fascination with Ikea and the act of buying inspired him to create modular set-ups of 'furniture' for viewers to explore

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National museum exhibition

My Brother / Brancuzi was originally created for the 1995 Whitney Biennial, Rhoades' first national museum exhibition. Its setting and history inspired the artist to explore the values of modernism

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Suburban bedroom

In My Brother / Brancuzi, 1995, Rhoades juxtaposes his brother's suburban bedroom with the famous studio fo Constantin Brancusi

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‘Jason Rhoades: Installations, 1994–2006’ is on view until 21 May. For more information visit the Hauser & Wirth website


Hauser Wirth & Schimmel
901 E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90013


Charlotte Jansen is a journalist and the author of two books on photography, Girl on Girl (2017) and Photography Now (2021). She is commissioning editor at Elephant magazine and has written on contemporary art and culture for The Guardian, the Financial Times, ELLE, the British Journal of Photography, Frieze and Artsy. Jansen is also presenter of Dior Talks podcast series, The Female Gaze.