Edward Kienholz "Roxys"

David Zwirner 19th Street

poster for Edward Kienholz "Roxys"

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David Zwirner presents Edward Kienholz’s (1927-1994) renowned installation Roxys, 1960-61. First exhibited at Los Angeles’s Ferus Gallery in 1962, this significant large-scale assemblage represents the first of the artist’s environmental installations, or “tableaux” as he called them, and has been credited as being one of the earliest examples of what is now ubiquitously referred to as “installation art.”

This exhibition follows the recently acclaimed presentation of a related work by the artist (in collaboration with Nancy Reddin Kienholz), The Hoerengracht (1983–88), which took place at the National Gallery, London, in November 2009 - February 2010.

An important figure in postwar American art, Kienholz has become best known for evocative assemblages and environments made from disparate found objects and discarded, everyday materials. His work draws from the vernacular of contemporary American life, confronting the viewer with issues surrounding cultural existence and the inhumanities of twentieth-century Western society. In 1953, Kienholz moved to Los Angeles from his hometown in Fairfield, Washington, and quickly became an active participant in the Southern California art community. Although his early work took the form of abstract wall reliefs and paintings, by 1960 Kienholz’s practice shifted to three-dimensional, free-standing constructions and environmental assemblages. His groundbreaking tableaux, which addressed themes surrounding the vulgarity of humanity, gave him the reputation of being a significant socio-critical artist and pioneer of Assemblage art.

Set in 1943, Roxys presents a life-size recreation of a well-known Las Vegas brothel. In a furnished room filled with objects and figures, Kienholz accurately displays the history and patina of the period—evoking the era of the artist’s adolescence—with vintage props such as a 1943 calendar, movie magazines, a juke box playing familiar songs from the forties, a slot machine, brand-name beer bottles and cigarette wrappers, a call-to-arms portrait of General MacArthur, period furniture, and miscellaneous bric-à-brac. The room is populated by disturbing, provocative figures that represent the remnants of human experience. This elaborately detailed tableau evokes the brutalities of the human condition: by offering an all-encompassing, visceral sensory experience, the viewer is fully and unavoidably confronted with the bleak realities of its subject matter.

The installation consists of a series of figurative assemblages, each placed on tile pedestals to indicate a deliberate separation from their environment. Each of these “characters” has a curious and descriptive name: Ben Brown; Dianna Poole, Miss Universal; Miss Cherry Delight; Cockeyed Jenny; Fifi, A Lost Angel; A Lady Named Zoa; Five Dollar Billy; and The Madam. These figures—one “male” and seven distorted “women” made out of mannequin body parts combined with absurd, surreal objects—demonstrate the dismal social realities of prostitution. In 1977, thinking back on Roxys, the artist recalled: “I went back in memory to going to Kellogg, Idaho, to whorehouses when I was a kid, and just being appalled by the whole situation—not being able to perform because it was just a really crummy, bad experience, a bunch of old women with sagging breasts that were supposed to turn you on, and like I say, it just didn’t work.”

[Image: Edward Kienholz "Roxys" (detail), (1960-61) Mixed media, dimensions variable. Collection Onnasch © 2010 Kienholz Estate.]



from May 06, 2010 to June 26, 2010


Edward Kienholz

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