Saturday, 25 August 2012

Jason Rhoades - Black Pussy

Jason Rhoades (July 9, 1965 – August 1, 2006) was an installation artist who enjoyed critical acclaim, if not widespread public recognition, at the time of his death, and who was eulogized by some critics as one of the most significant artists of his generation. Better known in Europe, where he exhibited regularly for the last twelve years of his life, Rhoades was recently celebrated for his combination dinner party/exhibitions that feature violet neon signs with African, Caribbean, Creole and hip-hop slang for the female genitalia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Rhoades

Art critics tend to say a lot about Jason Rhoades, if only because his intentions weren’t always easy to figure out. Listen to some tell it, and he was one of the most quietly influential artists of the past decade or two. In any case, the consensus is generally that Rhoades’ work was, to say the least, seriously imaginative. Most notably, Rhoades was known for his installations, which pieced together elements of his own lifestyle with sprawling messes of kitschy objects and arrangements.

The last of Rhoades strange experience-oriented pieces produced before his death in 2006 was entitled The Black Pussy, which presumably took its name from the piece depicted here. All in all, the installation boasted 427 slang terms for vaginas, spelled out in hanging neon lights. A commentary on the pervasive nature of sexuality in our culture? A clever “fuck you” to art snobs? Despite the strange claim that the project was inspired by Islamic religion (the title being a not-so-subtle allusion to the Black Box), pinning down Rhoades’ “intent” isn’t easy to do. For some artists though, words like “intent” or “point” don’t always apply.
B. Williams
http://wineandbowties.com/art/the-black-pussy-by-jason-rhoades/

As many of Jason Rhoades’ pieces, Black Pussy is not what it first appears to be. Or at least not only, although even on first seeing it there is already a lot to take in. Like Sheep Plug, this gigantic installation made of thousands of heterogeneous objects, neon lights and sound is both a testimonial and the result of an on-going process of accumulation and events. Indeed, Black Pussy was both the décor and the stage for ten Black Pussy Soirées Macramé parties that Rhoades held in his Los Angeles studio.
Virginie Bobin
http://www.ecoledumagasin.com/session17/spip.php?article88

Sex, religion, power and money: their conjunction is inevitable. Jason Rhoades' Black Pussy ... and the Pagan Idol Workshop, which opens tomorrow at Hauser & Wirth on London's Piccadilly, is an assault on the senses, as well as an affront to sensibility. If it is a calculated insult, it is also somehow indiscriminate, a babble and a confusion.

The Black Pussy of the title has nothing whatever to do with cats. It is the vagina by anything other than its proper name: sprangalang, jelly roll, the choo-choo train and many other ribald, ridiculous, affectionate, obscene and offensive names, written in ultra-violet neon, an eerie black light that makes your teeth fluoresce and your dandruff sparkle. The 427 pussy-words (selected from a much longer, though by no means exhaustive list) are hung and dangled like so many Christmas tree baubles about a mountainous accumulation of stuff.

The words themselves are a philologist's wet dream of gangsta rap, hip-hop, Creole, African and street jive euphemisms. Alone, these darkly shimmering signs would be no more than a mildly entertaining, if ultimately depressing record of the male mind-set. No one uses the word vagina in workaday intimate speech. But in the context of a work that also draws its inspiration - if that is the word - from the idols that were once housed in the Ka'bah in Mecca, before Muhammad cleared them out, their presence here gives one pause.

For Rhoades, then, we might take the gallery as a sanctuary for useless fetishes, unless, that is, art really does contain a message, the message being more than a smokescreen for the trade in art as a commodity. Black Pussy presents the antithesis of the gallery as a quasi-spiritual space, where succour may be sought. Private galleries, let's face it, are shops. Art is not a religion, or even several competing religions, however often the idea is bandied about. Museums are not the new cathedrals. I have no idea what Rhoades really intends in his allusions to Islamic culture, or indeed to anything else. Maybe the journey is the thing, the endless ravelling and unravelling of the world's confusion ·
Adrian Searle
http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2005/sep/20/2 

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