Twice a year, the by-appointment-only Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut unveils a new exhibit sourced from magazine magnate Peter Brant’s sprawling contemporary art collection. This Sunday marks the foundation’s latest unveiling: a retrospective of the late sculptor Jason Rhoades, who, before his death in 2006 at 41, was known for creating bombastic, socially conscious installations with an irreverent, Rube Goldberg-esque potpourri of media, from car parts to dried food.
The Brant’s openings are known for attracting a colorful crowd of art world and fashion heavyweights, and with Rhoades’s surreal works on display, this biannual tradition’s gonzo tea party-like atmosphere is sure to be even more heightened. Highlights include My Madinah: in pursuit of my ermitage, which examines the media’s reaction to 9/11 with neon “vagina” signs suspended over religious symbols, and My Brother/Brancuzi, a commission for the 1995 Whitney Biennial.
Comprised of spare tires, car engines, and donuts mounted on makeshift pedestals, My Brother/Brancuzi combines themes from Rhoades’s childhood and later modernist influences. “Jason’s brother Matt thought up the idea of a donut machine when he was nine years old and was selling donuts at a local fair,” the foundation’s director and Peter’s daughter Allison Brant tells us. “The machine no longer produces donuts but when the work was first created and shown for the Whitney Biennial in 1995 it was fully functioning.”
Another large-scale apparatus, The Grand Machine/THEAREOLA, features an epoxy made from green peas, salmon eggs and white foam known as “PeaRoeFoam,” which Rhoades once packaged and marketed in art galleries. Adorned with a pink neon sign reading “The Areola,” the installation represents Rhoades’s corporeal yet allegorical artistic practice.
While the foundation is known for juxtaposing cheeky art with its Rockwellian facilities (once inserting Dan Colen’s junkyard trucks nose-first into its manicured lawns), Brant says the Rhoades show was a unique beast. “The dynamic between the space and the work definitely played a significant role in the selection of works and curation of this exhibition,” says Brant. “Every exhibition is different from the next, which is one of the most wonderful things about my position and our space.”
Main image: One-Wheel Wagon-Wheel Chandelier (Crotch Mackerel, Peach, Slot Pocket, The Shrine) (2004)