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Jason Rhoades at Hauser and Wirth

Photo Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

by Michael Delgado


Cars: Scene and Be Seen
Someone said that people in LA wear their cars
like people in NY wear coats.

Obsessed with car culture as much as many respectable artists living in LA in whatever decade would be, Rhoades (1965 - 2006) gives us… the car! “Obsession” is a stretch, I suppose, but when you dwell on car culture like Rhoades, you begin to see the flipside of the cultural day to day that he elevates. Maybe “elevates” is not the right word, because the exhibition (in multiple parts over time) speaks instead to our relationship to the car and how we in fact, knowingly or not, personalize them. We use them as a projection of ourselves; or at least as the self we hope to broadcast.

Photo Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

Hauser and Wirth’s fabulous white cube is converted into a car showroom or perhaps more accurately, a garage specializing in difficult to repair autos. As you descend the ramp into the gallery from the courtyard, you ogle four cars, neatly spaced at a diagonal as if obeying the rules of an unmarked parking lot.

From left to right are a 1996 Caprice, a sickly white gone gray, (unmarked cop car?) and a squat, sparkling blue 1998 Ferrari. A cement parking bumper marked “sports car” holds a space between the Ferrari and the adorable tin can 1997 Ligier, the ubiquitous French mini auto always parked on the sidewalks of the city. (I never saw anyone actually drive one, but they were always parked along the narrowest sinews of the city.) A flat root beer colored Chevy Impala, is as equally frumpy as the Caprice, but at least not pressed into service for “the man.”

Photo Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

On closer inspection, several items present themselves as a narrative about each car’s ownership, even destination. In this ode to its Surrealist/ Dada forbearers in which found objects became art, dreamcatchers hang from the rear-view mirror. The Caprice back seat preserves Kodak slides and a Thomas Guide Book (the original GPS in spiral bound book form). The Ferrari has cassettes and a Walkman; and the Ligier’s passenger seat, faces backward, like a conversation pit. All the cars have keys in the ignition. Ready to go just like a gift for you or just presented for theft. Maybe that’s the same thing.

Rhoades points to utility, misogyny, fashion, pathos and hope, in what might be described as a landscape of LA, Rhoade’s hometown. The auto mall as theater, the 1998 Ferrari as panty remover, the Caprice as policeman/ loser, lost without its vintage “Thomas Guide” on the backseat.

A video of Rhoades talking at Hans Olbrist (Olbrist hardly gets a word in) while driving along the web of LA freeways is projected on part of the gallery wall. Rhoades explains cars as fetish, cars as sanctuary, cars as iconic, cars as indispensable, cars as idols, cars as demonic, cars as mythological, cars as definitive of their time or perhaps of our time as seen through our rear view mirrors.

The cars/ sculptures in the exhibition will change over the course of the show, which runs from for nearly a year, February 2024 to January 2025. The viewer is encouraged to experience the show not as a one off, but as a dialog between your associations with the varied cars and the artist’s curation of the same.

You are being taken for a ride – or maybe not. Car as sculpture, ripe with your psychological baggage ready to be unpeeled. Or maybe just some old cars in a gallery.


Michael Delgado is a Los Angeles-based painter.



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Gordy Grundy