David Zwirner Gallery
537 West 20th Street
Through October 18th, with a special event at the Kitchen October 4th
Even if faux-factory warehouses aren’t your bag, a nod has to be given to the tremendously detailed reconstruction of Jason Rhoades’s 2007 installation. (Originally shown at Zwirner.) Reconstructing Rhoades’s lab, assembly line, and storage stacks in painstaking detail took months of research and labor; to the best of my knowledge the piece never functioned, though one gets the sense Rhoades’s studio assistants must have used the factory while they were making it. It’s a mess. Piles of raw materials—mainly peas and foam—are everywhere, including on the walls.
Rhoades’s factory produced PeaRoeFoam, an invented product by Rhoades that, when combined with glue, makes an incredibly hard material. It’s hard to know that, though, since the installation piles this stuff as though it were loose. Sometimes the mixed material got packaged into cardboard boxes for shipping, but mostly this is a picture of a factory in disarray.
The material is supposed to reference food and architecture simultaneously; peas and roe are food, the material could be used in construction. A poster from the feature-length porn movie Behind the Green Door (1972) hangs prominently in the lab, reinforcing the idea of duality; the image features Marilyn Chambers, who in the same year that she made the movie, posed holding a baby for Ivory soap. She is both pure and fucked.
These elements probably wouldn’t add up to much more than a dim (and more dudely) approximation of a Mike Kelley installation, were it not for the functional karaoke station in the lab. Visually, it adds little to the sprawling piece—it’s just a small stereo with a mic—but conceptually, it keeps the installation from feeling like an artwork encased in amber. Not that this is a functional lab, but even the idea of music lets you imagine Rhoades’s assistants working in the factory and singing when they needed a break. You can imagine comradery, bickering, and tears. It’s that vision, inspired by Rhoades and conceived by the viewer, that makes this installation a relic of the past that is grounded in the present. —Paddy Johnson