Jason Rhoades: Drive / Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles

Jason Rhoades saw the car as a means of artistic expression, viewing it as both a pre-made sculpture and an emblem of American culture. Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles is dedicating a whole gallery at its Downtown Arts District site to a yearlong examination of Rhoades’ art through the lens of cars and car culture. Named ‘DRIVE,’ this exhibition will evolve through various themes, showcasing Rhoades’ sculptures, drawings, videos, and other works, alongside historical materials, public events, and modern interpretations.

DRIVE opens with The Parking Space, featuring a Chevrolet Caprice and Impala, a Ferrari 328 GTS and a Ligier microcar, parked in the gallery alongside a video in which Rhoades talks about his Car Projects. In April, the installation will undergo a transformation to include a lounge area, morphing into what is known as The Pit. A significant influx of historical materials will play a crucial role in delving into the different phases of Rhoades’ Car Projects. As summer approaches, the exhibition’s focus will shift towards The Racetrack. This section will feature a collection of half-scale NASCAR-style cars, custom jackets, and vibrantly painted tire barriers, remnants from ‘The Snowball.’ Originally staged as a daylong racing spectacle at Willow Springs Speedway in California, ‘The Snowball’ was ultimately intended for display at the 2000 Venice Biennale and as part of Rhoades’ collaborative project for the Danish Pavilion. Finally, in September, The Garage will mark the culmination of ‘DRIVE’ with a curated selection of framed paper works and a significant sculptural installation.

Jason Rhoades: Drive / Hauser & Wirth Downtown Los Angeles. Opening reception, February 27, 2024.

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Exhibition text (excerpt):

For Jason Rhoades, the car was a vehicle of artistic pursuit, both readymade sculpture and American idol. Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles dedicates an entire gallery at its Downtown Arts District location to a yearlong exploration of Rhoades’ art via the subject of cars and car culture. ‘DRIVE,’ will unfold over a series of thematic iterations, an ever-changing exhibition of Rhoades’ sculptures, drawings, videos and multiples—enriched by archival materials, public programs and contemporary perspectives.

The Parking Space

DRIVE opens with The Parking Space, featuring a Chevrolet Caprice and Impala, a Ferrari 328 GTS and a Ligier microcar, parked in the gallery alongside a video in which Rhoades fervidly discourses on his concept of the Car Projects. While driving around Los Angeles in 1998, Rhoades explains the relationship of cars to his art (parking is equated with sitting in a sculpture) and to daily practice (driving between the house, the studio and stores is time and space for the mind to race and wander). He expounds on cars as icons of art history (Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia speeded modern art forward with their mechanized abstractions), identifiers of class (you are what you drive) and environments of control. The radio is tuned to Power 106 FM and as the world streams by to the propulsive hip-hop beat, the romance of cars seems irresistible.

The Pit

In April, the installation will be reconfigured to accommodate a lounge and become The Pit. An influx of archival materials will be key to unpacking the various episodes of Rhoades’ Car Projects, starting with the Caprice and the 1996 exhibition ‘Traffic.’ Not only did the artist cut a deal with CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France the organizers of the show, to go in on buying him the car as a transactional work of art, he later leveraged its symbolic value by trading the Caprice for a Ferrari.

The Racetrack

This summer the exhibition’s focus will swerve onto The Racetrack. A set of half-scale NASCAR-style cars, custom jackets and colorfully painted tire barriers are among what remains of ‘The Snowball.’ Staged in California as a daylong racing event at Willow Springs speedway, ‘The Snowball’ was ultimately destined for the 2000 Venice Biennale and Rhoades’ collaborative work for the Danish Pavilion.

The Garage

In September, The Garage will cover the final stretch of ‘DRIVE’ with a selection of framed works on paper and a major sculptural installation.

Organized as an investigation in real time, ‘DRIVE’ invites people to approach the exhibition like a garage of art and ideas, in which cars are coming and going and tinkering is a productive state of mind. As an artist, Rhoades was keenly attuned to sources of cultural power and weakness. When he put the internal combustion engine on art’s pedestal, was he presciently placing the car where it belongs for a greener tomorrow? The car as a subject in Rhoades’ art continues to drive and trouble the imagination today.

Known for his art’s driving imagination and ambition, as well as its reckless provocation and overwhelming materiality, Rhoades was a world builder for whom the making of sculptures and the creation of narratives were intertwined. His epic-scaled installations established him as a force of the international art world in the 1990s while based in Los Angeles, where driving is as much a part of daily life as being stuck in traffic. Rhoades grew up engine adept, fixing and driving motorbikes, cars, trucks and other vehicles in rural Northern California. Rhoades studied with Richard Jackson and Paul McCarthy at UCLA, where he earned his MFA in 1993. It was with characteristic pragmatism and brash ludicrousness that he conducted his final lap of art school performing heats in a tiny red Formula One kit car on a miniature racetrack that he constructed out of cardboard.

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