Jason Rhoades: Garage Renovation New York (Cherry Makita), 1993. Installation view at David Zwirner, New York. Courtesy estate of Jason Rhoades; Galerie Hauser & Wirth; David Zwirner, New York/London.

Has the rebellious sensibility of L.A. artist Jason Rhoades aged well in the era of reality TV? We'll find out this fall, when Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art opens the first major U.S. exhibition (Sept. 18-Dec. 29) of the late artist-provocateur, who died in 2006 at age 41. Much exhibited in Europe but less so in America, Rhoades remains an enigma to many. His bad-boy reputation, bolstered by a penchant for installations incorporating porn, car engines and Home Depot supplies and coupled with early success in New York and Europe, left a dubious legacy that ICA chief curator Ingrid Schaffner wants to set right with her new show, "Jason Rhoades, Four Roads."

First among Schaffner's challenges was to re-create the energy of Rhoades's original installations, which he assembled with compulsive exactitude. Schaffner had to make sense of seemingly random arrangements of found objects, neons, Lego blocks, power tools, macramé and extension cords. To give new audiences a primer on his output, the curator included four room-sized works, beginning with a piece from Rhoades's first exhibition with New York's David Zwirner Gallery in 1993, when the artist was straight out of UCLA's MFA program. Called Garage Renovation New York (CHERRY Makita), it's an expanded version of the ramshackle wood structure shown in the New Museum's recent exhibition "NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star." The most recent work in Schaffner's show is My Madinah: In pursuit of my ermitage . . . , from 2004, which includes Rhoades's show-stopping arrangement of "pussy words": dangling clutches of neon spelling out various terms for female genitalia-"salami garage" and "hatchet wound," among other gems. Another piece in the show, Creation Myth (1998), a sprawling installation meant to evoke the workings of the human brain, makes its U.S. debut here.

"These works are overwhelming," Schaffner admitted in a phone conversation recently. "And that's a singular power that this work has-the physicality." She stresses the importance of experiencing the work first-hand and sees it as a tonic for our collective anxieties in an increasingly virtual world. Likewise, Rhoades's you-gotta-be-there ethos seems to be more aligned with today's spectacle-driven museum culture than when much of his work was made.

Equally of-the-moment are the questions that will likely be raised about Schaffner's curatorial choices. Though she never met Rhoades, she spoke with him on the phone several times when she included him in "Deep Storage," her 1997 show at Haus der Kunst, Munich, which explored storage, collecting and archiving as artistic practices. For the Philadelphia exhibition, Schaffner enlisted installers from Zurich, New York and Los Angeles who worked directly with Rhoades. Still, as curators and conservators are increasingly tasked with reinterpreting and re-creating artworks heavily reliant on their creator's presence, the Rhoades show should prove worthy of study-whether as success or failure or, more likely, a bit of both.

And then there are the seeming politics Rhoades's work, which might be taken as juvenile, patriarchal and white. His work isn't easy to love, especially for women unenthused by salami garages.

Rather than seeing Rhoades's work as espousing a particular position or ideology, Schaffner sees it as "showing trouble spots and hot spots in a political consciousness. Something about the popular imagination in its darkest, obscene, ridiculous manifestations." Such a description could also have applied to the work of a young Ed Kienholz, or Paul McCarthy, who was Rhoades's teacher.

"There is transgression and taboo in the work, and so many other things as well," Schaffner says. "It's very hard to reduce. I can't and don't want to. I give it up to the work for that."