Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Kienholz on Exhibit"

Robert Boyd

In my last post, I alluded to earlier documentaries on Edward Kienholz--a television show from the early 60s and a documentary about his retrospective at the L.A. County Art Museum in 1966. I just discovered you can get the latter documentary online for free! The source is a place called The Internet Archive, and I think I'll be exploring it a lot.

"I'm such a hipster, I wear sunglasses indoors when I look at art."

I first saw this movie in 1985 as a student at Rice. Kienholz had two exhibits going on in town--one at the CAMH ("Human Scale") and one at the late, lamented Rice Museum ("The Art Show"). They decided to also show these two documentaries at the Rice Media Center. But apparently Kienholz and Nancy Reddin hadn't seen either one of them in a long time, so they screened them both for them and for any students who happened to be hanging out at the time. Both Kienholz and Reddin were great--funny, they told a lot of stories about the movies, they commented on the "types" on display in the "Kienholz on Exhibit" movie (the proto-hippies, the hip black dude who tells it like it is, the wise-cracking black guy in Roxy's, etc.)

"That's not art... It's a bunch of junk!"

When you see the reactions of people to Kienholz's retrospective, especially to pieces like "Roxy's", "Backseat Dodge" and "Illegal Operation," it's absolutely amazing that the L.A. County museum put this show on! You simply can't imagine the MFAH, for example, putting up a show that would generate such a strong (often negative) public reaction. Museums like popular shows, but controversial shows? No thank you.

"That squirrel's got his nut."

I highly recommend this documentary, produced and directed by June Steel. She does a great job capturing people's reactions, as well as capturing the sadness that permeates so much of Kienholz's best work. (Her music selections are perfect in that regard.)

"And if you look inside, you can see a couple screwing..."

"You are really groovy, grandma."

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