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  • Overview

    Jason Rhoades’ installations conjure a startling blend of visual and psychological cacophony. Drawing from a rich history of assemblage and complex sculptural constructions, the Californian artist’s work combines an aesthetic of suburban kitsch with powerful formal and allegorical undertones. The product of one of Rhoades’ greatest preoccupations, Heroic Vagina forms part of the artist’s ‘pussy lexicon’ – a pivotal series of works which collected over 7,000 euphemisms for female genitalia, and which Rhoades exhibited in colourful neon as well as an impressive, larger-than-life size. 

    'For one thing, I don’t understand my works as being separate from one another. There are a few breaks, but I basically understand them as one piece. In order to see one work, you have to look back in reference to the others.' —Jason RhoadesRhoades has expressed his desire that his career be read as one continuous work, whereby each aspect should be used to reference the other. In Heroic Vagina, the inclusion of PeaRoeFoam – Rhoades's self-made material conflating whole green peas, fish-bait salmon eggs and white virgin-beaded foam – refers directly to his titular exhibition at David Zwirner in 2002, which took the novel medium as a starting point. Executed just a year after this significant show, and continuing to boast Rhoades’ PeaRoeFoam recipe, Heroic Vagina van be viewed as a seminal work linking the most significant achievements of the artist’s career.

     

    Detail of the present work.
    Detail of the present work.

    Forming the basis of Heroic Vagina are the sculpture’s constitutive neons, found objects, PeaRoeFoam and meticulously selected printed material. Replicated throughout the totemic sculpture is the film poster for Behind the Green Door, America’s first feature-length pornographic film. The film’s lead, Marilyn Chambers, appears twice in the work – as seductive adult film star, and as the model for the laundry detergent product Ivory Snow, where she is pictured smiling, demure and holding a baby. Rhoades recycled these images in many works, celebrating the humorous dichotomy between the wholesome and the explicit in American popular culture. 

     

    Film poster for Behind the Green Door, 1972
    Film poster for Behind the Green Door, 1972. Image: Bridgeman Images.

    Manifesting themes of sexuality, consumerism and religion, Heroic Vagina expands like an altar, shimmering from its base. The sculpture stands as a direct precursor to Rhoades’ most significant achievements including My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage..., 2004, where the artist conflated his neon pussy words with a recreation of Mecca – the holiest of cities in Islam – complete with old towels (faux prayer mats) and kitsch souvenirs from North Africa. This work and all of Rhoades’ oeuvre represent an intentionally provocative but deeply complex exploration of pop culture, the media, and anthropology more broadly. 

     

    In the Words of Chris Kraus

     

    For the art critic Chris Kraus, Rhoade’s resounding legacy can be defined as ‘American artist, American psycho. Born at the end of the mid-twentieth century, in 1965, when the proliferation of image and consumer culture had already subsumed and come to define American consciousness, Rhoades had no intention of offering something so futile as a 'critique of consumerism'. Rather, his genius was to plunge into the heart of the image-flow and feedback the experience of pure information, demonstrating in the process how thought triggers thought, leaving only material traces. Clearly Rhoades was two decades ahead of his time’.i 

     

    Jason Rhoades and PeaRoeFoam 

     

     

    i Chris Kraus, ‘Jason Rhoades, American Artist’ in: Exh. Cat., Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (and travelling), op. cit., pp. 93-94.

    • Provenance

      David Zwirner, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004

    • Exhibited

      New York, David Zwirner, Jason Rhoades: Meccatuna, 12 September - 25 October 2003

Property of a Private French Collector

38

Heroic Vagina

two neon phrases with transformer and power cord, orange Plexiglas panel, PeaRoeFoam, cardboard and rubber boot on Lifetime folding table
233.7 x 154.9 x 109.2 cm (92 x 60 7/8 x 42 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2003, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020