The exhibition brings together 26 artworks realized between 1959 to 1994 by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, including the well-known installation that gives the show its title.
Five Car Stud was created by Edward Kienholz from 1969 to 1972, and first exhibited at Documenta 5 in Kassel, curated by Harald Szeemann.
A life-sized reproduction of a scene of racial violence, Five Car Stud is considered one of the American artist’s most significant works. Despite the controversy and attention that it earned from critics right from its debut, the piece remained hidden from view in the storage of a Japanese collector for almost forty years. The artwork was only presented once again to the viewing public in 2011 and 2012 following restoration, first at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. Today the artwork is part of the Prada Collection, and is being shown for the first time ever in Italy, where it forms the central nucleus of an exhibition path that runs from the Sud gallery to the Deposito, and extends into an external space.
Five Car Stud catapults the viewer into a nightmarish situation, immersing him and her in a dimension – either removed or forgotten – of extreme violence. More than forty years after it was first created, the artwork’s expressive force, its powerful symbolic charge and the lucidity of the accusation against racial persecution retain their original strength.
Among the other tableaux, assemblages and drawings by Ed and Nancy Kienholz included in the exhibition are the wooden relief O’er the Ramparts We Watched, Fascinated (1959), inspired by the American-Soviet space race; assemblages that incorporate or simulate monitors, such as The Death Watch (1976), Bout Round Eleven (1982) and The Twilight Home (1983); The Caddy Court (1986–1987), a grotesque and funereal representation of American Supreme Court justices; The Merry-Go-World or Begat by Chance and The Wonder Horse Trigger (1991–1994), a carousel which conceals an empathetic contemplation on the random determinism of birth; The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also (1980), which reduces the female body to an object of pure sexual entertainment; Jody, Jody, Jody (1994), a tableau evoking a deplorable instance of child abuse; and one of the last works by the Kienholzes, 76 J.C.s Led the Big Charade (1992–1994), an installation that transforms baby dolls, wagon parts and different cultural and historical depictions of Jesus Christ into crucifixes, taking aim at religion in its institutionalized forms devoid of spirituality.
An autodidact and artist from Washington State, Ed Kienholz (1927–1994) founded Ferus Gallery with Walter Hopps in Los Angeles in 1957. In 1961, after his first solo show, curated by Hopps at Pasadena Art Museum in California, Kienholz, along with other West Coast artists, was selected for the William Seitz- curated exhibition “The Art of Assemblage” at MoMA in New York, where his work was displayed alongside Picasso, Schwitters, Duchamp and Cornell. In 1972, Edward Kienholz and his wife Nancy Reddin began an artistic collaboration. From this point forward the pair would co-sign all the works they produced until Edward Kienholz’s death in 1994.
Right from his earliest works, Ed Kienholz drew upon a realistic, quotidian and unequivocal imagination to create “an art of repulsion,” in direct opposition to a narcissistic component present in Abstract Expressionism, or the fetishism of industrial merchandise and materials typical of Pop Art and Minimalism. As Germano Celant explains, “Kienholz does not tend to sublimate the lowness and tragedy of life, the conditions of solitude and triviality, but rather uses them as tools that can highlight the low, popular universe, a place where the emaciated and filthy, the perverse and lurid, represent a new, surprising beauty.”