Artist biography

American sculptor. Having produced his first paintings and watercolours while still in high school, in 1954 Kienholz made his first wooden relief paintings. These consisted of odd pieces of wood nailed to a panel and then painted with a broom. They were often painted in a murky brown to exaggerate their ugliness, through which Kienholz sought to investigate concepts of beauty.

In 1962 Kienholz exhibited his first ‘tableau', or environmental assemblage, Roxy's (1961; R. Onnasch priv. col., see 1981 exh. cat., pp. 10–46. Named after a brothel in Los Angeles, it recreates its subject through a series of furnished rooms filled with figures and other objects. The figures that populate it are deformed mannequinsl.

In 1965, in order to overcome the cost of constructing tableaux without having first found a purchaser, Kienholz made his first ‘concept tableau' in the form of a bronze plaque inscribed with its title and accompanied by a written description. For an additional fee this could later be realised as a drawing or full-scale tableau, or it could be resold in its conceptual form.

From 1972 Kienholz worked in collaboration with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz whom he acknowledged in 1981 should be given equal credit for the works. Their contact with Germany led to a number of tableaux that commented on Nazism. These works were often more controlled, suggestive and less obvious than their predecessors. In the 1980s they returned to tableaux with a more immediate impact.

Edward Kienholz (exh. cat. by M. Tuchman, Los Angeles, Co. Mus. A., 1966)
Edward Kienholz: 11+11 Tableaux (exh. cat., Stockholm, Mod. Mus., 1970)
Edward Kienholz: Tableaux, 1961–1979 (exh. cat. by D. Scott, Dublin, Trinity Coll., Hyde Gal., 1981)
Kienholz (exh. cat. by J. Harten, Düsseldorf, Städt. Ksthalle, 1989)

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