Edward Kienholz: Is He an Artist or Did Roxy's Go Too Far?

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  • Topic: Prostitution, Brothel, Sex industry
  • Pages : 5 (1721 words )
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  • Published : November 7, 2007
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Edward Kienholz, described his own work as that of a trail-maker and the viewer as the hunter, "At one point I as the trail-maker disappear. The viewer is then confronted with a dilemma of ideas and direction. The possibilities are then to push on further by questions and answers to a new place that I can't even imagine or turn back to an old safe place. But even on the decision is direction." (Hopps, p.147) Edward Kienholz first began his socially critical environments in the early sixties. When they first were displayed, they shocked the public. However they did not create a large stir outside the art community, until the creation of ROXY'S in 1961. ROXY'S provoked vulnerability in the private life of the individual to intervention by the environment and social convention. Ed Kienholz' environments are art and set the president for all up and coming sculptural artists. When creating the whore house ROXY'S, Ed worked it in two ways: the "real" part and the "art" part. He worked the environment, so it felt like a real location in a real place in time, or the "real part". The second way he worked this piece, was the "art part" which was usually messed up, clunked around, and torn apart; which, in this case, was his representation of the seven whores and Ben Brown, the towel boy. One example of this destruction is that many of the whores are covered in paint, which, no matter what color, represented blood. (Reddin-Kienholz p.12) In order to recreate the feeling of a nineteen forties whore house, in Nevada, which he had never seen, but had heard of, he thought back to a local whore house around where he grew up in Kellogg, Idaho. ("Edward Kienholz" encyclopedia) As the viewer walks up to the two roomed environment, a scratchy 78 is playing a familiar, popular forties song on the jukebox. On the wall there is a calendar dated June 1943, and a sampler, which reads, "There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us to talk about the rest of us." (Appendix 3) There is also a picture of General MacArthur on the wall next to coat rack upon which hangs the coat of a G. I. The furniture as well is reminiscent of the nineteen forties (appendix 1 & 2). Ed uses the environment at ROXY'S to help the audience imagine the possibility that this was a real whore house and feel as though they are actually there. "By emphasizing these aspects, Kienholz establishes the sordid contradictions in society between reality and appearances; between the representational and the façade and the psychological underpinnings of society's paradoxical attitudes." (Reddin-Kienholz, p.6) The picture of General MacArthur, for example, shows that the whorehouse liked G. I.'s and treated them well (Cromwell). This piece would look like a recreation of a typical 1940's house, if it weren't for the seven whores and Ben Brown standing around. The viewer sees the whores in this order Zoa, Fifi, Cock-eyed Jenny, the Madam, Diana Pool Miss Universal, Miss Cherry Delight, and Five Dollar Billy. Lastly the viewer sees Ben Brown the towel boy in a corner on his treadmill. Each of these whores has their own personalities and signifiers (Cromwell). Zoa, (appendix 4) her body is a letter dispensing box and/or machine, which opens when a nickel is inserted. When the doors (which can also be interpreted as legs) open the viewer sees red walls with images of unborn children lining the walls. Zoa is the only whore who has a twin, named Zoe. Zoe was completed and sold before Ed finalized the concept of ROXY'S. The two girls are identical, except one has a right leg; the other has the left leg. Fifi is a lost angel, (appendix 5) she is an attractive, board girl with a clock ticking in her belly. She never gives a customer more time with herself, then what they paid for. She spends her free time playing solitaire and tricking men. Cock-Eyed Jenny (appendix 6) is a pop-lid garbage can, with the word love written on the inside. Going...
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