Magazine article Artforum International

There's a Party in My Sculpture: Jack Bankowsky on Jason Rhoades's Black Pussy Soiree Cabaret Macrame

Magazine article Artforum International

There's a Party in My Sculpture: Jack Bankowsky on Jason Rhoades's Black Pussy Soiree Cabaret Macrame

Article excerpt

By going between places, it will generate things. It'll snowball, take
on a mythology and a history, and then at some point it'll just stop.
And that'll be it, it'll be a finished sculpture.
--Jason Rhoades

THE MYSTERIOUS "it" in my epigraph is Jason Rhoades's IMPALA, 1998, the car-cum-sculpture the artist loaded up with cheese and Chanel No. 22, (1) drove across Europe, and eventually parked outside the Kunsthalle Zurich, where it remained for the entire busy art month of June. But Rhoades might have been talking about any number of his "sculptures," not least of all his last and, I am convinced, greatest work: the multi-episode dinner-in-an-installation he staged in a Los Angeles warehouse and christened with the delirious, toxic, altogether Rhoadesian title Black Pussy Soiree Cabaret Macrame.

By the time I showed up, the party was over, which, in the Rhoadesian scheme of things, is another way of saying it had turned into a sculpture. Of course, this is not entirely fair, as each work in the expanded field of his art is a sculpture before it is anything else. But this sculpture's essence--its numen, as the ancients would say--is inseparable from the festivities that filled it with life. When the lights went up on the tenth and, by the artist's own decree, final soiree, the sculpture was officially finished. That the final good-nights were followed a short month later by Rhoades's untimely death on August 1, 2006, lends the proceedings a heartbreaking sense of closure, but, in truth, the afterlife of the party had by then already been scripted by the artist. As it happened, I slipped in under the wire: The entire prodigious morning-after mess was about to be packed up and shipped off to New York, where it goes on view this month at David Zwirner Gallery right on time for auction week--just as the artist had planned it. (2)

It is a fact of life, or rather art, that any work with a real-time dimension depends for its existence--or survival--on that old-fashioned compromise: documentation. To this end, Jason Rhoades' Black Pussy Cocktail Coffee Table Book, complete with an essay by bona fide gossip writer Kevin West (significant for a sculpture that is also a party), is due to show up soon in a bookstore near you. But oral history inevitably plays a part as well; in this case, as I discovered on my belated visit to BP headquarters, a certain Alex Israel is ably tending the flame.

"This is the Johnny Cash Gallery," Alex began, as I crossed the threshold of a storefront that shares a block of Beverly Boulevard with a tattoo parlor, New York Donuts, and, anomalously, a cultishly fashionable sushi restaurant named Shibucho. The somewhat underwhelming space, I learned, had served during the soirees as the official receiving room--an antechamber where guests congregated; were offered a pussy libation from the well-stocked, if decidedly makeshift, bar (a Kinky Kitten, anyone?); and were introduced to their fellow partiers. The events, Alex continued, were elaborately choreographed, even scripted--from guest lists to invites to menus to the Academy Awards-ish dual MC routine performed by "Jason and me." Alex, I was catching on, was much more than the extra-poised studio hand I had initially mistaken him for. A key BP enabler and full-fledged cohost, my guide emerged as a kind of Edie (minus the tragedy) to Rhoades's Andy--an accomplice whose my-friend's-dad-wrote-the-screenplay-for-Apocalypse-Now Rolodex fit Rhoades's will to LA sociality like a glove. "Jason," Alex explained, thought of BP as a "charisma catcher"; "we made specific efforts to target different people from different cultural groups who wouldn't normally socialize in the context of his art." With that, my host, approximating the flow of an actual soiree, led me through a short passage and into the cavernous "sanctum dentatum."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

WHERE TO BEGIN? Having experienced Black Pussy in London (The Black Pussy . …

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