Edward Kienholz († June 10, 1994 Hope, Idaho) was an American object and conceptual artist. He is considered one of the leading neo-Dadaist artists who made the move from the Dadaist environment to object montage.
In the 1950s Kienholz, who never attended an art academy and was therefore largely self-taught, began his artistic work with wooden reliefs, gradually moving on to three-dimensionality.
His materials are objets trouvés, but in his case they can also be called objets cherchés, since he specifically looked for objects for his art at flea markets. It was important for him to combine his environments into a unity with the help of varnish or paint. Effects such as light or sounds also play a major role in his artworks. In contrast to other artists of Pop Art, Kienholz repeatedly addressed socially critical themes such as racial discrimination, violence, the oppression of women, and the Vietnam War in his works.
In his works, he alluded to the themes of birth control, equal opportunity and discrimination, the superficiality and double standards of citizens, but also to the wasteful frivolity in American society and addressed taboo subjects such as rape, the consequences of war, the elderly, the sick and the disabled left alone by society. One example is the large room-sized tableau “Das tragbare Kriegerdenkmal” (in the original: “Portable War Memorial”) from 1968. Here he placed the national icons Kate Smith, Uncle Sam, and the group of soldiers at the United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington in a context of propaganda machinery and consumer society. It should be noted here that Kienholz is more of a moralist than a social critic. – He does not judge, he shows!
Ed Kienholz had already been married four times when he met Nancy Reddin; he remained with her for the rest of his life. Nancy also contributed to Ed”s art, and since their collaboration, the works are also signed with her name as Edward & Nancy Kienholz. This equality of several artists working on a common body of work was new and revolutionary at the time.
In 1957 he opened a painting gallery in Los Angeles, the Ferus Gallery. Kienholz participated in the 4th documenta and Documenta 5 in Kassel in 1968 and 1972.
Beginning in 1973, he, Nancy and their three children spent the summer months in Hope, Idaho and the winter months in Berlin, where he was a guest of the Berliner Künstlerprogramm de DAAD in 1973. In 1974 Edward Kienholz participated in ADA actions of the avant-garde in Berlin.
In 1977 he opened the Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery. Beginning in the 1970”s he executed his concept tableaux works only by commission. In 1989, he and Nancy presented their work in Düsseldorf at the Städtische Kunsthalle in the exhibition Kienholz 1980”s. In 1996 and 1997 his work was shown in a retrospective in New York and Berlin.
Kienholz was buried in his Packard with a dollar in his pocket, a bottle of red wine and an urn containing his dog”s ashes.