Ed Kienholz

Aug 12, 2012


Love it or hate it, ‚Five Car Stud‘ (1969-1972) is Ed Kienholz’ major work. It represents a group of white men castrating a black man as his white girlfriend watches. The figures are life-size mannequins wearing masks, illuminated by the headlights of four cars and a pickup truck. Floating letters in an oil pan on the victim’s chest spell out the N word. Kienholz’s aesthetic is uncompromisingly bitter. People are mean and stupid, and things don’t get better. ‚Five Car Stud‘ is rebellious, provocative and physically insistent. Its relevance potent it reaches back to America’s historical roots and reflects current violence committed to the individual by the mob, be it for political, ethnic, religious or sexual reasons.

When Kienholz created the piece, installation art was not part of art terminology. Hence ‚Five Car Stud‘ is an early, striking example of an expanded artistic aproach in which the spectator is not only viewing the object of art but is drawn into it as a participant. In this case a shocking experience, as the scenario shows a number of white men lynching a black man in a frightening, dramatic set-up.

The work of Kienholz has been re-assessed in recent years, not least through the gaze of contemporary art. This has brought about a great interest in ‚Five Car Stud‘, since it reappeared in 2009 – after having been ‚gone‘ for almost 40 years – from the storage of the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Japan and was restored under the supervision of Kienholz’ widow, artist Nancy Redding Kienholz.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

June 6th – October 21st, 2012
Gl. Strandvej 13
3050 Humlebæk