Drywall, cabbage juice and coconut oil, rotting roses and cedar planks — these physical materials are the extensions of my memory, intention and pleasure. From warm memories of bathhouses to managing illness at home, my artwork distills a lived experience into a material reality. These materials take the shape of sculptural networks that serve as biographical biomes. The architectural and organic components of the work are sourced from my own experience and the surreal writings of French novelist, Jean Genet. I embed many of Jean Genet’s floral metaphors into the porous surfaces of my work as a way to to express notions of the erotic body, death and love.
“This message is acutely conveyed in Jason Rondinelli’s installation “Genet’s Bed” (2017), wherein two rotting cabbages suspended in netted shopping bags ooze their malodorous juices into pipes that drain into ceramic bowls brimming with balms and salves. A layered wall fragment flanking the construction absorbs the cabbage juice as well. The foul odor fills the gallery’s space, especially on hot days. In this work, Rondinelli recalls a hallucinatory moment during his recovery from invasive surgery, when he saw the walls of his house become stained with ointments and salves before cracking open to reveal the pipework inside. Cabbages are replaced once they dry out, and the cycle of decomposition begins again.”
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Studio Views by Glenn Adamson
“The gay saunas of New York somehow survived the AIDS crisis, but they couldn’t withstand the introduction of hookup apps.” I had a good laugh when Jason Rondinelli made that observation to me, though of course this is no laughing matter. The horror of the AIDS epidemic has receded now, thanks to Prep and antiretroviral therapy – at least, it has here in America. But it left a permanent shadow, not least on imaginings of gay sexuality. What had been associated with carefree (albeit illegal) hedonism became tinged with trauma, and the memory of the dead.
Rondinelli’s work sensitively explores this palimpsest of pleasure and pain. He takes into his scope not just the memory of AIDS, but also deeper legacies - like the films and writings of Jean Genet, and even ancient Roman baths. Saunas are particularly resonant spaces for him. No longer used for sex and sociability, they are now finding new uses, or are simply unoccupied, and Rondinelli’s sculptures could be considered affective, abject monuments to this history. There are steam-wet cedar structures, partly sheathed in handmade tiles; drywall structures surreally lubricated with muscle relaxant. These works poignantly evoke scenarios that, to an earlier generation of gay men, would have seemed paradise in miniature. Today they live mainly in the collective memory.
In a particularly arresting move, Rondinelli evokes the trace of bodies through the introduction of heads of cabbage, which give off a palpable, humid smell as the sculptures age. This is an allusion to Genet’s visionary erotic text Funeral Rites: “My gaze was glued to the militiaman's fly… I loved him. I was going to marry him. It would perhaps be enough for me to be dressed in white, for the wedding, though with a decoration of large black crape cabbage rosettes at each joint, at the elbows, the knees, the fingers, the ankles, the neck, the waist, the throat, the prick, and the anus.” Few viewers, perhaps, would make the connection to this gorgeously explicit literary source. But Rondinelli is not providing footnotes. Rather, his work is a primal encounter with the thing that is most immediate, yet most elusive, in human life: desire.
The full text can be found here.