Skip to Main Content

Jason Rhoades: PeaRoeFoam

Contributions by Lucas Zwirner and Dylan Kenny / Text by Julien Bismuth and David Zwirner

Up to his untimely death in 2006 at age 41, Jason Rhoades carried out a continuous assault on aesthetic conventions and the rules governing the art world—wryly subverting those very conditions by using them as materials for his work.

In 2002, Rhoades introduced the world to his PeaRoeFoam, a “brand new product and revolutionary new material” created from whole green peas, fish-bait style salmon eggs, and white virgin-beaded foam. When combined with non-toxic glue, they transform into a versatile, fast-drying, and ultimately hard material that he intended for both utilitarian as well as artistic uses—his detailed step-by-step instructions accompanied do-it-yourself kits complete with everything needed to make PeaRoeFoam. 

Rhoades debuted his PeaRoeFoam project at David Zwirner in 2002 (then located on Greene Street in SoHo) in the first of a trilogy of exhibitions that also brought it to Vienna and Liverpool the same year. Following the original “PeaRoeFormance” at the gallery, the artist moved the equipment to the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) in Vienna, where he added a makeshift karaoke studio, and then to the Liverpool Biennial, where he continued the production inside a giant, inflatable pool the shape and color of a human liver. PeaRoeFoam continued to be appropriated for subsequent works, but the majority of the leftovers and objects from all three “PeaRoeFormances” found a new place in Rhoades’s studio. Arranged on shelves covering the full length of a large wall, they remained on the location until after the artist’s death. The entirety of the installation, never previously shown, was exhibited as part of the comprehensive presentation of the PeaRoeFoam project at David Zwirner in New York in 2014. 

This seminal publication is the first to properly examine and situate PeaRoeFoam within Rhoades’s career and to acknowledge its importance within the overall framework of his practice. The 2014 exhibition at David Zwirner presented many of the individual components for the first time since their original installations, and this book discusses and reproduces those initial presentations in depth. Also included is an abundance of archival documents and photographs, installation views of all 2002 shows, as well as the artist’s diagrams and drawings. The publication also features a personal and revealing essay by David Zwirner, who began showing Rhoades’s work in the early 1990s, new scholarship by Julien Bismuth, and selected interviews from the Jason Rhoades Oral History project, conceived by Dylan Kenny and Lucas Zwirner, who have interviewed over fifty artists, curators, friends, collaborators, art historians, and others who intimately knew the artist—including curator and art historian Linda Norden.

“The PeaRoeFoam project lends some clarity to the whole Rhoadesian enterprise while affirming his roles of impresario and inventor."

– Karen Rosenberg, The New York Times

“In its mix of order and chaos, its trashiness and sublimity, the exhibition embraces the contradictions and duality of Rhoades’ art.”

– Alex Mahany, Artnews

“The re-booted installation, which was first seen in 2002, is bursting at the seams — with PeaRoeFoam pellets,blaring lights, found images, a tiny motorcycle, and a row of industrial shelves whose melloworange hue make it look like a very disheveled Home Depot has been plopped down in the whitecube.”

– Scott Indrisek, Blouin Artinfo

“His PeaRoeFoam project of 2002, reconstituted here, reads a bit like a last gasp of crashed-and-burned ‘scatter art’ of the late ’90s (though Rhoades, as his drawings reveal, was a far more rigorous contrapuntist than his sloppier buddies). But it’s also an economic and ecological collision course that feels wholly and disturbingly contemporary.”

– Jason Farago, ARTFORUM

“The work of Jason Rhoades, like the life of Jason Rhoades, is an excellent example of the spirit of virulent nihilism. His work is an atlas of humanity caught in the throes of giving in and giving up."

– Nickolas Calabrese, Mousse