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Nov 13, 2013, 6:30PM

ICA Salon: Taboo

Jason Rhoades, Four Roads, 2013, installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.
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Jason Rhoades, Four Roads, 2013, installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

The season’s second Salon engaged taboo as a subject and strategy in the work of Jason Rhoades and centered around Rhoades’s notorious, storied, interactive final project: the Black Pussy Soirée Cabaret Macramé. Each of the three participants approached this series of charged events, staged in the artist’s Los Angeles studio, from different vantage points and sensibilities, stirring up a heady brew. Curator, writer, and art historian Linda Norden, who attended the first of the ten Black Pussy parties, made a case for situating Rhoades’s work between that of Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy. Artist Alex Israel, who helped Rhoades organize and host the parties, spoke about their conception, evolution, rituals, and guests, giving the audience a vivid tour. From the first small gathering that Norden attended, the soirées grew to involve hundreds—including crashers, identifiable because they were not (as the invitations specified) wearing white. Israel described the “pussy word harvests” at which guests were encouraged to shout out pussy words, while strings hung down along the walls to be macraméd as an outlet for nervous tension. He talked about the poetic materials he and Rhoades arranged in the space—Chinese scholar stones, beaver felt cowboy hats, dream catchers—and the scented candles given to departing guests as party favors, offering a clear and powerful picture of what the legendary events were actually like. Finally, Northwestern University Associate Professor of Art History Huey Copeland, whose knowledge of Rhoades’s work is mediated rather than direct, gave the audience a preview of his upcoming book on the figure of the Negress in American art, reading an excerpt relating to Black Pussy. ICA Program Curator Alex Klein introduced the evening and adroitly guided the conversation. The presentations—which offered a tantalizing glimpse at how the immediacy of a work of art is transformed by time and scholarship into art history—were followed by animated discussion between the speakers and the audience that touched on issues ranging from language and representation to desire and the responsibility of the audience. Afterwards, participants lingered in the lobby, continuing to discuss the images presented and the issues raised over wine and cheese.
*Jason Rhoades, Four Rhoades* Salon: Taboo (2013)

(l–r) Linda Norden, Alex Israel, Huey Copeland, Alex Klein at the Jason Rhoades, Four Rhoades Salon: Taboo, 2013, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Photo: ICA intern.

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