Magazine article Artforum International

Jason Rhoades

Magazine article Artforum International

Jason Rhoades

Article excerpt

In this ongoing series, writers are invited to introduce the work of artists at the beginning of their careers.

Jason Rhoades' New York debut show, titled "CHERRY Makita--Honest Engine Work," represented the culmination of an ongoing project: the re-creation, through several incarnations, of what variously could be seen as a mechanic's or carpenter's shop, a sculptor's studio, and the suburban garage of an obsessive-compulsive hobbyist. The centerpiece was a ludicrously overblown drill (fashioned from a Chevrolet 350 V-8 engine, so large that it hung from a winch), which the artist would sometimes start up and use to bore holes in the wall of the mock garage that housed it. It was this futile contraption that inspired (or was inspired by) the name "Makita," a leading manufacturer of drills and screwguns.

As for "Cherry," Rhoades points out that it is hot rod lingo for a souped-up car. But the term is of course better known as slang for a woman's genitalia, and within the macho den of the installation, femininity was in fact invoked by various pinup calendars scattered throughout, which showed a swimsuit model oddly--yet inevitably--posing with different samples from the Makita product line. This "corporate" figure, posed in stark contrast to the exaggerated phallicism of the big drill, seemed to serve as the artist/hobbyist's personal muse. Less symbolic, if not deliberately nonsignifying, were the peripheral ensembles surrounding the garage: various bits of equipment and shelving cobbled together from cardboard and drywall; tools modeled from tinfoil, dough, or plaster; drawings in motor oil on kraft paper; red buckets; chunks of Styrofoam and foamcore, piles of random Polaroids, loose screws and nails, sawdust, grease, and anonymous effluvia. Ladders stood here and there. Clip-on lights provided much of the lighting. Everything was held together by some combination of duct tape, drywall screws, glue, or clamps. Even the jerry-building was jerry-built. Nothing was finished. Nothing wanted to be finished. Rather, these partially formed or transitional elements shuttled the viewer back and forth between the literalism of real tools and work processes and the artifice of dysfunctional or solely representational objects and events. A sporadic and less evident feature of the installation was the artist's habit of showing up in the gallery/workshop from time to time to putter around, as any self-respecting hobbyist would. …

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