Jody Jody Jody, 1993-94
photo SISTO LEGNAN, Courtesy Fondazione Prada
In the mid-1950s, EDWARD KIENHOLZ (1927-1994) was part of a generation of artists engaged in multi-disciplinary practices such as gallerist and curator in his native United States. By the end of the decade, KIENHOLZ started to reconstitute a sort of a creepy version of the Madame Tussauds made in US. His life-size installations or tableaux are composed of trashes or found objects as well as figures carrying in place of their face, the signs of their decay, their despair, and their obsessions.
The current exhibition at Fondazione Prada in Milano brings together a selection of artworks realized between 1959 to 1994 by EDWARD KIENHOLZ and NANCY REDDIN KIENHOLZ. The pieces which include installations and sculptures seem to have been frozen in sometimes grotesque, gruesome and somehow literal dramas in which the viewer is whether in a voyeuristic or complicit position.
In an essay, writer and artist DAVID COLOSI who aimed to locate the literary aspect in the work of KIENHOLZ, wrote about the infamous and controversial scene entitled Five Car Stud (1969-1972) that is the centrepiece of the Milanese exhibiton:
The act of looking at a piece of art is a commitment to responsibility: once s/he has looked, the choice and act are irreversible. (…). To ignore the scene and escape the tent to view the Frankenthaler in the next room implicates the viewer with turning his/her back on the issue; to stay forces one to take a position in relation to it. – http://www.3dlit.org/practice/Kienholz/section2_1_1kienholz_colosi_towards.html#_ftn7
Five Car Stud (1969-1972) is an immersive installation which depicts precisely a scene of racial violence, where four cars and a pickup truck encircle a group of masked men holding down and castrating a black man. His white girlfriend is vomiting and watches helplessly from one of the cars. The license plates read “State of Brotherhood.”
The artwork has been shown in 1972 during the Documenta 5 in Kassel, and has been in storage in Japan for nearly forty years. It is now part of the Prada Collection.
Kienholz: Five Car Stud is on view through 31 December 2016.