With Ed Kienholz, America’s Dark Underbelly is Unveiled

Edward Kienholz (pictured above) installing a sculpture by Duane Hanson “Policeman and and Rioter” 1967. (I have yet to figure out where,when or why Kienholz is installing Hanson’s work).

William Claxton’s photography of Ed Kienholz’s Ferus gallery opening 1962. Kienholz was untrained as an artist. Before devoting himself to art full time, he worked as a carpenter, and in a psychiatric ward among other odd jobs.

Edward-Kienholz-The-Pool-Hall (1993) This work depicts in brutal raw detail the male fantasy of the nearly nude female being the toy of men. She is headless. The men are black and white and have antlers as if they are stags. This then is a Stag Party.

The Pool Hall is orchestrated as a Period Piece of Americana

Edward Kienholz’s The Birthday (1964) This work evokes both the terror and majestic forces at work when a woman is giving birth. It as if bolts of life energy are being thrust from her body. It happens in a plain and simple space, on a Kienholtz signature black and white checkerboard floor.

Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud catalog

Recently I visited LACMA to see Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud. It is comprised of five mid-20th century vehicles, and depicts the nightmare castration of a black man who has been caught having sex with a white woman in a truck. The installation is most remarkable. The cars are real. The sculptures are made from Kienholz’s friends body casts. The Negro is a giant; yet he is also actually based upon the bodies of a white male. So there is tremendous fantasy and projection at work and at play. Because of the dirt on the floor and the circle of headlights, and the fact that you actually walk around on the installation itself – there is this sense of being on a movie set. And a sense of being a 1960’s crime reporter, and a sense of being the witness to evil. There is a sense of being at the site of the real event – yet in its mythic state. There is the sense of being a crime photographer and homicide investigator. One of the cars is cut in half and juts out from a wall. Another features a hapless teenaged boy in the front seat, witnessing the crime while being helpless and possibly paralyzed by fear.

The scene also reminds me a Sartre play and film entitled The Respectful Prostitute, about American racism and sexual fantasy life in the 1950s. It is believed ot be based upon the Scottsboro Boys legal case whereby two white female prostitutes accused nine black men of raping them on a freight training crossing Alabama. In Sartre’s story the investigator is shown to have terrific sexual fantasies about the woman.

Five Car Stud 1969-1972, overhead view of the defilement of the man’s body in action.

One of the men pulling the rope to hold the man down who is about to have his genitals cut off for dating a white woman

The man standing with his hand on his green pickup truck while watching the terror.

A close up of the goon and his green pickup truck.

The woman who was giving her love to the black man is still in the truck and is crying. The radio is playing. There is fifth of liquor bottle that was being enjoyed.

Edward Kienholz’s Claude Nigger Claude (1988) at the Schirn, Frankfurt, Germany, 2011

night view of the hotel scene

A close up view in daylight.

Claude Nigger Claude appears to be about a black man/Negro waering a suite and checking into a hotel, but riding up the service elevator instead of the elevator in the lobby.

Edward Kienholz’s The Art Show (1963-1967)

The Art Show, corner view

LA Art Uproar – Over Kienholz’s  Back Seat Dodge scupture that depicts a couple making love in the back seat of an old car. Kienholz was driven to incite his viewers with representations of the the unsavory and evil elements of America life.

Edward Kienholz’s Back Seat Dodge, at LACMA, Los Angeles

According to his Wikipedia page “In 1966, Kienholz began to spend summers in Hope, Idaho, while still maintaining studio space in Los Angeles. Also around that time, Kienholz produced a series of Concept Tableaux. which consisted of framed text descriptions of artwork that did not yet exist.”

Kienholz had “Ed Kienholz, EXPERT” painted on the passenger side door of his truck. A nice poke at the Mister Know-It-All world in general.

Edward Kienholz’s Walter Hopps scultpure is a startling and extremely funny work. Its scale astonished me when I saw it – taller than a six foot man. And two-sided, complete with lists of artists names and even a funky old curator’s roledex! I saw this at the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time show that is traveling to the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. I visited the MGB several years ago and saw an astounding exhibition of large-scale works from the US and Western Europe, made mostly in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Walter Hopps sculpture – rear view/backside

The Ed Kienholz retrospective catalog – featuring the Art World audience sculpture on the cover

Vincent Johnson during his recent art trip to London

please feel free to visit my website:



Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – installation shot – 2
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio shot – 1 (Silver hand)
Vincent Johnson – in my studio working on my Nine Grayscale Paintings
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – first stage of grayscale painting
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio view of stage one of grayscale paintings drying

Los Angeles based artist and writer Vincent Johnson

Vincent Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting 1986. He started out as a student in Pratt’s painting department. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

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