Time Out New York / February 15, 2011

Stephen G. Rhodes

In a written statement, Stephen G. Rhodes informs us professorially that “the collaboration between Immanuel Kant and Martin Lampe recalls many throughout history,” before exhorting us in more irreverent mode to “imagine Fischli and Weiss as Michael J. Fox and Doc.” In a ramshackle maze of assemblages, paintings and videos, Rhodes aims to explore the relationship of the 18th-century philosopher and author of Critique of Pure Reason with his servant (Lampe), one that may or may not mirror other real and fictional partnerships. Marshaling a chaotic blend of elements representing aspects of Kant and Lampe’s routine—including, for example, a litter of mugs signifying the assistant’s tea-brewing duties—the artist confronts us with a highly coded mess that, for all the fascination of its subject, starts to become engaging only when literally animated.

After a roomful of cabinets stuffed with diagrammatic paintings, tourist guidebooks (Kant was an armchair traveler) and clippings from porn mags (since Kant, who also wrote Rhodes’s specific inspiration here, Essay on the Illness of the Head, was well-nigh celibate), we come to a chamber in which a rotating stack of projectors casts images on all four walls. To a cacophonous mix of sounds underscored by an insistent clip-clop rhythm, the projections show what might be the great thinker pounding the highways of Kaliningrad, Russia, intercut with pyrotechnic shenanigans that recall the aforementioned Fischli and Weiss’s 1987 film, Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go). Overall, Rhodes’s show is a rather bewildering mash-up of times and places, people and ideas, but in this work at least, his reasoning, if not exactly pure, is worth critiquing.