An artist born in Newcastle – that’s Newcastle, northern California – is to get his first UK exhibition at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
He won’t be in Gateshead or even Newcastle to see it, though. Jason Rhoades died tragically young, at just 41, after making a big splash on the American art scene.
The exhibition, called Jason Rhoades, Four Roads, will consist of four major installations incorporating a mind-boggling array of stuff.
Just one of them, Creation Myth, comprises hundreds of objects including folding tables, buckets, shredded paper, logs, office equipment and furniture, video monitors and a smoke machine.
According to Baltic, this collection of objects “turns out to be a highly constructed model of the artist’s brain at work with sections for the accumulation of knowledge, memory processing and the subconscious”.
Creation Myth was put together originally in 1998. The other three installations are called Garage Renovation New York (Cherry Makita), dating from 1993; Sutter’s Mill, from 2000; and Untitled (from My Madinah: In Pursuit of my ermitage), from 2004.
The exhibition was organised in 2013 by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, by ICA chief curator Ingrid Schaffer. At Baltic it is the responsibility of chief curator Laurence Sillars.
Jason Rhoades is likely to be an unknown quantity to most North East art lovers.
He was born in 1965, studied art in California and Maine and exhibited in the United States and in Europe, notably at the Venice Biennale. His work is held in major collections in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Berlin and London.
In Hamburg, in 1999, he built what he claimed was the world’s largest sculpture.
Baltic tell us that Rhoades was one of a generation of artists who created vivid, sprawling environments out of a wide range of materials. Among those he admired were Marcel Duchamp, the conceptual art pioneer, racing driver Ayrton Senna and actor Kevin Costner.
Rhoades’ large-scale installations, we learn, are “immediately accessible and eye-catching”.
But in an obituary published in The Guardian after his death in 2006 from heart failure, the writer, Jerry Salz, recalled his first meeting with the artist, in a gallery just before his New York debut, when he “was pixyish, distracted, engrossed, though with sufficient presence to display a decidedly foxy, rogueish streak”.
He went on: “His use of speech was so non-linear and convoluted that while I picked up general threads, I do not think I ever understood one word that he said to me on the dozen or so occasions we met.
“This does not mean I thought what he was saying was half-baked; in fact, I thought it was fully baked, and that I was hearing a very original way of thinking.”
Jason Rhoades, Four Roads opens at Baltic on February 20 and runs until May 31.