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Art Happening

For six months prior to his death of heart failure at age 41 in August 2006, Los Angeles-based artist Jason Rhoades held 10 salon-style happenings at his Beverly Boulevard studio.

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For six months prior to his death of heart failure at age 41 in August 2006, Los Angeles-based artist Jason Rhoades held 10 salon-style happenings at his Beverly Boulevard studio. Called (absurdly) "Black Pussy Soiree Cabaret Macramé," they became sought-after social events as well as an integral part of his 3,000-square-foot art installation. Art collectors like Rosette Delug and Norman Stone and bold-faced names like Ashley Olsen and Alex Kerry blew through his studio, leaving their recorded voices behind as part of the massive sculpture. They also suggested euphemisms for female genitalia to add to the master list Rhoades was compiling — many of their terms were later made into neon signs and added to the work.

The piece, which also comprises hundreds of dream catchers, hookah pipes, Chinese scholar stones, Venetian glass vegetables, cloth rugs and a wall-sized "macramé" of vintage T-shirts, opens to the public for the first time on Tuesday at the David Zwirner gallery in New York. A book from Steidl is due out later in the year.

Here, attendees and friends of Rhoades' recall the larger-than-life artist and his work:

Alex Israel, collaborator: I met with Jason in the summer of 2005 to talk about this project he wanted to do in Los Angeles. He wasn't quite sure at this point what the project was going to be, but he'd just rented a studio on Beverly Boulevard and wanted to do something involving the community in Los Angeles. We began organizing a series of events to bring people to the studio to experience it in a very special way. So I became a corroborator and co-host for what came to be known as "Black Pussy Soiree Cabaret Macramé."

Paul Schimmel, Museum of Contemporary Art chief curator: I first heard about it from Jason. He had in his own mind positioned this project as his homecoming to Los Angeles — his self-proclaimed, self-supported homecoming.

David Zwirner, gallerist: It was kind of amazing because it was layering a sculptural process and a sort of entertainment and performance process. The people who went to these things really thought of it as a party. But he thought of it as making a piece of work, because the people who came to the openings had to participate. They had to work on this macramé, they had to give a pussy word, they would be taped and photographed and that again would become part of the work. So it was sort of a studio practice, but it was at the same time something totally different. I thought it was pretty radical.
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