~JASON RHOADES dead at 41

Jason Rhoades # 1

JASON RHOADES at the opening of his one man show, ‘Meccatuna’,
Photo: Nancy Smith

Los Angeles based installation artist JASON RHOADES dies at the age
of 41, on Tuesday, August 1, 2006. According to the DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY,
Jason fell ill at home and was brought to the hospital, where he passed away.
An obituary
by Diane Haithman, LA Times Staff writer, was published on August 3.
One of the saddest notes in the article was the fact that .. “according to
the David Zwirner Gallery, Rhoades is survived by his wife, artist Rachel Khedoori,
and daughter Rubi, 3.”

There were immediately rumors circulating that Rhoades had died of a
heart attack, but cause of death has not been officially confirmed. According
to the obituary, an autopsy is pending. Other rumors circulated that Rhoades
died of a heart attack at a club, and specifically at a club performance, or the
installation of one of his recent “Black Pussy Soirees” but the David Zwirner
Gallery reports that he was …”not at a club, nor was he at one of his Black Pussy
soirees … the LA ones actually wrapped up in LA a month ago” – guess art fans
couldn’t resist the provocative associations, but it seems the gallery took
offense at the rumors, and said they were hurtful to his family. But getting
‘in-your-face’ seems to be an aspect of his work that was just truly taking off,
and successfully so, on many levels, garnering him not only critical acclaim,
but mainstream media attention as well. It was more a case of …wanting
to visualize him ‘going down with the ship’ …than anything really malevolent
on the part of the rumor mongers.

His ‘Meccatuna’ show in 2003, in NYC, at David Zwirner was pretty tame, visually,
even though conceptually it was very controversial .. because of Islamic references.
The highly detailed production, realized in a playful spirit, and as a site-specific installation,
had at its core – the issue of women in Islam.
The overall effect although purely visual, was based on consumer products and
logos – the big center of attention, a room-sized block constructed from
toy ‘legos’ – at first impression, hardly the stuff of controversy – was in fact,
a representation of the most sacred object in Islam.

When a talented artist dies too soon, especially right on the
brink of mainstream success, its shocking … but if Jason Rhoades could look down, I’m
sure he’d find something awesome about an obit that had to deal with
his recent performance in LA like this …

“…Los Angeles art lovers may connect Rhoades’ name most recently with
his series of interactive art exhibitions this year that he dubbed “soirees”.
The series included such provocative and provocatively titled invitation-only
events as the “Black Pussy Soiree Cabaret Macrame,” a combination
exhibition and dinner party that featured violet neon signs with
African, Caribbean, Creole and hip-hop slang for female genitalia”.
– Diane Haithman, LA Times Obituary, Aug 3, 2006

further, in the obit it states: …”At the time of his death, Rhoades
was preparing a live event for Aug 12 in Portland , Oregon with
curator Majories Myers. It was to feature a wrestling match involving
homeless teenagers wallowing in a plastic pool filled with bath soaps, lotions
and sexual lubricants.” … sounds like sometime we’d like to experience
‘head-on’ …not just imagine from the depths of an obituary … looks like
there is a big sadness, and loss, in the artworld, today.

Jason Rhoades   2

artist JASON RHOADES, with MONICA ZWIRNER, the wife of art dealer,
David Zwirner, at the opening of his one-man show, ‘Meccatuna’,
David Zwirner Gallery, Chelsea, NYC, Sept 12, 2003

Jason Rhoades   3

from left, gallerist ANDREW KREPS, and sculptor, RACHEL HARRISON,
center, JASON RHOADES opening, ‘Meccatuna’, David Zwirner Gallery,
Chelsea, NYC, Sept 12, 2003

Jason Rhoades   4

opening, ‘Meccatuna’, David Zwirner Gallery, Chelsea, NYC, Sept 12, 2003
Justin Samson worked as a production assistant on the installation – in fact he helped
build the giant ‘lego’ toy building block construction.

All above photos: Nancy Smith