In the art world, people don’t entirely know what they are talking about. They ask a lot of questions. It’s not that people don’t know what they already know, but rather that they want to know something more in order to do the next best thing—and sometimes, somehow, they get it right.
When Edward Kienholz was scouring the neighborhoods of the sprawling city of L.A. in the early 1960s in search of a 1938 Dodge coupe to use in a sculpture, he probably had little idea that he was on the verge of creating a work that would one day become a symbol of Southern California art.
The sculpture, which portrays a couple engaged in sexual activity in the back seat of a truncated automobile chassis, won Kienholz instant celebrity in 1966 when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tried to ban the sculpture as pornographic and threatened to withhold financing from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art if it included the work in a Kienholz retrospective.
I first became aware of Kienholz while living in L.A. in the late seventies, about the same time I became aware of Chuck Bukowski’s writings and John Fante, It was as if they had crafted a Universe of transients, hard liquor, cheap downtown hotels and broken down dreams. It was the other L.A. the one that you didn’t get to see in any of the sightseeing tours of the city of Angels. The one I had a visceral attraction for, the one that to me was the most poetic and inspiring: It was Alvarado not Rodeo…
Though not formally educated in art, Kienholz became one of the most important installation artists of the late 20th Century. His installations were composed of found objects that were often nothing more than household trinkets and furniture. Using what he could find at flea markets and plaster-cast mannequins, Edward Kienholz on his own and later along with his wife Nancy Redding who he met at a party in Los Angeles in 1972 created installations that frequently mimicked actual interiors. The environments they created had the nature of a mystical 3 dimensional tableau containment where the air felt sucked out of and replaced by a magic mixture of oxygen and nitro oxide that left you gasping.
I actually remember making love to my wife inside a Kienholtz installation at the Los Angeles County Museum, until a guard came to see what was happening…and realized we weren’t exactly part of the work on display…Rebellious, provocative, and polarizing, the oeuvre associated with his work has always caused quite a stir since its beginnings in the mid-1950s and I am sure we weren’t the only one to find his work so highly stimulating.
His art just like Bukowsky’s poetry is made of these fragment of life and experiences that he and his wife in a silent unsigned pact put into context for people to walk thru or look into as if a window would open into a new room where the rules of creation have been left to harden and mold.
I guess he came to mind today as I was thinking about art and the collaborative efford between two partners in creating something greater that the sum of its parts…
Edward on the occasion of the exhibition “The Kienholz Women” in Berlin in 1981 publicly declared his wife Nancy co-authorship concerning all his works produced since 1972, They had come to find each other each bringing forth their very own bag of tinkets and “umbrellas” and found an artistic dialogue that would unite them.
Today there is a show of their work taking place at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt.
If you ever wonder what it is that can be accomplished by two people working and loving this is a good example.
TrackBack URL :