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October 24 2011

Kienholz. The Signs of the Times. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

The exhibition Kienholz. The Signs of the Times at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt am Main presents the provocative and polarizing work of Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz. The show starts with early sculptures and installations by Edward Kienholz such as The Blue Wagon (1960), The Carnivore (1962), and The Nativity (1961), and culminates in Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s spectacular installation The Ozymandias Parade (1985). The Signs of the Times aims to highlighting the essence of Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s oeuvre.

Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s work caused a lot of opposition and uproar because of the unvarnished depiction and thematization of sexual power and exploitation, abuse of political power, racism, and institutionalized faith. The controversy around Edward Kienholz’s work Back Seat Dodge ’38, which was shown as part of a solo exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1966 is one example of the violent reactions that Kienholz’s work caused. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared the work that shows two faceless figures having sex in a car “pornographic” and the exhibition was hotly discussed in local newspapers. Another major Kienholz work, Five Car Stud 1969-1972, Revisited is currently on view at the LACMA.

Edward Kienholz was born in Fairfield, Washington in 1927. He was a self-taught artist and acquired many impressions, insights, and manual skills that would later be decisive for his artistic work from working as a nurse’s aid, a used car salesman, a handyman, and a proprietor of a bar. In 1954, Edward Kienholz settled in Los Angeles, where he got in contact with the avant-garde art scene, and where he produced his first wooden reliefs and assemblages. He organized exhibitions and opened the NOW Gallery in 1956 and the Ferus Gallery in 1957. He started to create three-dimensional ‘tableaux’, large-scale installations for which he used found objects and everyday things such as TV sets, car parts, furniture, loudspeakers, and also plaster casts of various family members and friends.

Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s work was shown in major art institutions around the world, such as LACMA, Los Angeles (1966); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1970); Kunsthaus Zürich (1971), Centre Pompidou, Paris (1977); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1989); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1996); Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney (2005); National Gallery, London (2009). Edward Kienholz participated in Documenta 4 (1968) and Documenta 5 (1972) in Kassel.

From 1973 on, Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz alternatively lived in Hope, Idaho, and Berlin. On the occasion of the exhibition The Kienholz Women in Berlin in 1981/82, Edward Kienholz officially declared that all his work produced since 1972 should be retrospectively understood to be co-authored by his wife.

Edward Kienholz died in Hope in 1994. He was buried in a Kienholz installation, his body sitting in the front seat of a 1940 Packard car, together with a dollar, a deck of cards, a bottle of red wine, and the ashes of his dog in the back. Nancy Reddin Kienholz continues taking care of the joint artistic estate, and organizes shows and exhibitions.

The exhibition Kienholz. The Signs of the Times runs until January 29, 2012. From February 22 to May 13, 2012, the show will also be on display at the Museum Tinguely in Basel.

Kienholz. The Signs of the Times (Die Zeichen der Zeit). Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt am Main. Opening reception, October 22, 2011.

PS: Photo set and press release after the jump.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

Press release:

Rebellious, provocative, and polarizing, the oeuvre associated with the name Kienholz has always caused quite a stir since its beginnings in the mid-1950s, first the works by Edward Kienholz (1927–1994) alone, then later, from 1972 on, the collaborative projects with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz. This is hardly astonishing, since religion, war, death, sex, and the more inscrutable sides of society and its social conflicts have always been at its center. Dealing with such subjects as the sexual exploitation of women in prostitution, the role of the media, and the effects of ethnic conflicts, the works pinpoint fractures of Western societies which have hardly been remedied to this day and thus lend the oeuvre its unmitigated topicality. But this contemporaneity is not due solely to the themes dealt with; today we view the works as anticipating central trends in contemporary art like those we find ourselves confronted with in Paul McCarthy’s and Mike Kelley’s pieces, for example, but also in the production of Jonathan Meese, Thomas Hirschhorn, or John Bock. On show from October 22, 2011, until January 29, 2012, the exhibition at the Schirn, spanning from the first three-dimensional smaller works to the conceptual pieces and room-filling tableaux, offers a complex survey highlighting the essence of Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s achievements.

The exhibition “Kienholz. The Signs of the Times” is sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Society of Friends of the Schirn Kunsthalle e. V., and Škoda Auto Deutschland GmbH.

Edward Kienholz was born in Fairfield, Washington on October 23, 1927 and died in Hope, Idaho in 1994. On the occasion of the exhibition “The Kienholz Women” in Berlin in 1981/82, Edward Kienholz publicly declared his wife’s co-authorship concerning all his works produced since 1972, the year of their first encounter. Edward Kienholz studied at several colleges, yet never attended an art academy. Doing odd jobs such as working as a nurse’s aid, a used car salesman, a handyman (with a car boasting the inscription “Ed Kienholz – Expert”), and proprietor of a bar he got to know various milieus, collecting impressions and insights that he would draw on in later years. From 1973 on, Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz alternately lived in Hope, an out-of-the way place in Idaho, and Berlin, where they maintained a lively exchange with the German art world.

In 1953, Edward Kienholz had taken up residence in Los Angeles, where he produced his first wooden reliefs and small-format assemblages of materials from 1954 on. Two years later he organized exhibitions in Los Angeles before he opened the Ferus Gallery together with Walter Hopps in 1957. Soon after, his works developed into three-dimensional “tableaux” – room- spanning environments and installations. The material he used was mainly comprised of everyday things and found objects he had come upon at flea markets he rummaged through, garbage from the scrapyards and dumps of Western consumer culture – TV sets, car parts, loudspeakers, pieces of furniture, goldfish bowls, shoes, signs, flags, promotional articles, cigarettes, toy soldiers, dollar banknotes, and – last, but not least – plaster casts of various family members and people belonging to his circle of friends.

This approach was absolutely radical – there had never been something comparable on such a scale in the history of art before. His work fulfilled all criteria of what avant-gardes were about, which had always aimed at marching ahead of their time. Yet, avant-gardes were also elitist and exclusive. Kienzholz, however, had never been interested in excluding anyone. Quite the contrary, there was something that had to be said, and so it had to be conveyed to all people. The viewer finds himself confronted with an oeuvre that is both unfamiliar and exceptional, that in its forms of realism is close to the everyday world and yet points far beyond it. His works were too much for the conventional America of the 1960s which regarded them as obscene and yet saw thousands of people visiting the first major exhibition who gleefully reveled in the scandal. Presentations of Kienholz’s oeuvre, rebellious, provocative, and polarizing, have always caused quite a sensation since its beginnings in the mid-1950s. Its subjects, with which Kienholz exposed the society’s wounds, certainly had a decisive part in this. Potential conflicts have constantly been at the work’s center: war, religion, death, sex, and the power of the media.

“Adrenalin-producing anger carried me through that work,” Edward Kienholz remembered the beginnings of his career as an artist. There were reasons enough for this anger. The critical voices of the generation of those years, which were marked by the cold war and the anti- communism of the McCarthy era, shared a passionate contempt for the vulgarity and injustice of the world. They rejected the demands of their day’s consumption craze, bigotry, and repression, showed their interest in alternative ways, in filth, outsiders, and the society’s fringe groups, and raised objections against a consumerist culture which, in their view, had lost its inhibitions.

In his large-format tableau “The Eleventh Hour Final” from 1968, Kienholz evokes the coziness of an average respectable middle-class living room to break and destroy it with a single object, a single gesture. This object is a concrete TV set in which a severed doll’s head, representative of the victims, provides the background for the killing statistics to be read on the screen. Just the act of quoting such an enumeration underscores the absurdity of such statistics, which were – as the title recalls – read out in the late-night news day after day. The TV is turned into a monument or – literally – into a memorial of media manipulation.

The “tableaux” “The State Hospital” from 1966 and “The Jesus Corner” from 1982/83 make it their concern to impressively confront middle-class coziness with the hard facts beyond its world. They reveal two different aspects of how a society deals with its fringes. “The State Hospital” is an emotional outcry against the conditions in psychiatric wards, which Edward Kienholz knew from his own experience from his time as an orderly; “The Jesus Corner,” on the other hand, pays tribute to the fascination for the other which a society gains through its outsiders, loners, and non- conformists. In short: tolerance against barracking – which summarizes another of Kienholz’s appeals. In addition, the assemblage with its Christian devotional objects is symptomatic of the deep skepticism about institutionalized faith, which finds its expression in mocking irony or open rebellion in different works.

A great many works make it their concern that everybody should be granted a fair share in the American dream. Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s “Claude Nigger Claude” from 1988 focuses on everyday racism. The work portrays a black man from Idaho, a state with an infinitesimal proportion of black inhabitants. “The Potlatch” from 1988 explores the substitution and destruction of the indigenous population’s social and cultural identity. With both “Claude Nigger Claude” and “The Potlatch” the artists, residents of Idaho from 1973 on, thematize the history of the American Northwest from a very close point of view.

Other works deal with sexual power and exploitation. The artists confront the utopia of liberated sexuality with the commodified sexuality of the brothel. Works such as “The Pool Hall” from 1993, “The Rhinestone Beaver Peepshow Triptych,” or “The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also,” both from 1980, mirror commercialized sex and advertising images of utmost banality, which have deeply embedded themselves in the society’s subconscious. In today’s world of YouPorn in which porn pictures are available at any time to virtually everyone, a pinball machine offering an outlet for impulses and urges nearly strikes us as belonging to some golden age. The perspective seems to be profoundly Protestant in this case and incessantly oscillates between exhibitionism and enlightening gesture.

The highlight of the show to be found at its end is the spectacular installation “The Ozymandias Parade” with 687 blinking light bulbs in Germany’s national colors (the colors are adapted to the respective venue of presentation). A decadent parade on a ship of fools in form of a reflecting arrow features as a symbol of the abuse of political power. Whether the parade’s sinister president shows a YES or a NO across his face is up to the visitors of the show. It is the result of a survey comprised of just one simple question: “Are you satisfied with your government?” Visitors may take part in this survey via the website going online two weeks before the exhibition opens. The outcome will be presented at the opening of the show.

The exhibition “Kienholz. The Signs of the Times” will also be on display at the Museum Tinguely in Basel (February 22 – May 13, 2012) after its presentation in Frankfurt.

April 26 2011

The i-Cosmos / Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main

The exhibition i-Kosmos (i-Cosmos) at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main is an investigation on the role of design for the success of Apple in the computer and entertainment business. i-Cosmos is the world’s first comprehensive show on the design of iDevices as well as their parallel and peripheral products.

Always the brand for people of the creative industry, Apple is no longer a niche player. The market capitalization of the company has even surpassed that of Microsoft. When Wired magazine called to pray for Apple with its June 2007 cover, most people were sure that the company was doomed. With the return of co-founder Steve Jobs, the success story began again: Mac OS X (the new operating system), the iMac, iPod, iTunes, and finally iPhone and iPad.

If you understand design as to be more than styling, more then adding colors and lines according to the latest fashion, and more than adding functions and technology just because it’s available and feasible, then Apple might be one of the few companies today that very consequently use design to create useful products that are reduced to the maximum: the maximum functionality, desireability, salability. The curators of the exhibition state that Apples iDevices have each caused a paradigm shift in their product genres.

Hit the jump for a photo gallery and the press release. The exhibition is running until May 8, 2011.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

Press release:
In March 2011, the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt will present the exhibition “iCosmos: The Might, Myth and Magic of a Brand” – the world’s first comprehensive show on the design of iDevices as well as their parallel and peripheral products.

Apple Inc., the Californian computer company, has been marked by unparalleled success over the past three and a half decades. Like no other company, it has succeeded in shifting the focus of use from utility to coveted possessions when it comes to computers and electronic entertainment devices such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

In addition, each of the products in the i-family have changed their product genres technologically and ergonomically to such an extent that not only have all competitors adopted these new “user guidances,” but hundreds of complementary products have been created around these products as well, from a wide range of accessories to docking stations, i.e., veritable radios with external speakers for the iPods and iPhones that allow users to experience the stored music without headphones.

The iPhone has compelled all manufacturers of mobile phones to add smart phones with touch sensitive screens, the touch phones, to their programs. And the iPad will fundamentally transform the handling of video and news as well. Since the introduction of the iPhone, more than 200,000 special application programs, the so-called apps, have been made available for these i-devices.

In their product genres, these devices have each caused a paradigm shift: they are both leading and cult products, and they represent a development that has leveraged the mobile Internet and delocalized the act of surfing from the home to almost anywhere.

The exhibition and the accompanying catalog document and comment upon this process of “disruptive technologies,” which has taken place only very rarely in the history of technology and design. They leaf through the preconditions and position these innovative devices in product-historical, social, and psychological contexts. “Spiegel” magazine correctly wrote: “The i-cult. How Apple seduces the world.” But beyond any seduction, the “i-cosmos” represents a changed handling of information, media, and entertainment.

February 28 2011

New Art in the Deutsche Bank Towers

The Deutsche Bank Collection is one of the world’s largest corporate art collections. On the occasion of the re-opening of the bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, a new concept for the collection and the new presentation of the bank’s collection in the Deutsche Bank towers was introduced to the press and invited guests last week. In short, the new concept focuses still on works on paper by younger artists, but geographically, it has been extended from the German-speaking world to the global art scene. In this video, we take you on a short tour through the renovated building and attend the opening of the new presentation of the collection in the towers. More information about the new concept and presentation is available at DB ArtMag.

New Art in the Deutsche Bank Towers, Frankfurt am Main, February 24, 2011.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

August 13 2010

Less and More. The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

He is perhaps the most influential living industrial designer of modern times and some call him the Godfather of Apple design: Dieter Rams. For design addicts the similarities in the design philosophy of Dieter Rams’ designs for Braun during the second half of the 20th century and Jonathan Ive’s designs for Apple are obvious, but essential parts of Dieter Rams’ design language and philosophy – or ethos – have been adopted by many other designers as well. His 10 principles of good design have led to pieces of industrial design that stand out and became true classics.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams is a unique retrospective at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt / Main. It shows more than 500 exhibits, among them the famous Braun SK 4 record player (popularly called “Schneewittchensarg” / Snow White’s Coffin because of the plexiglass hood) that Dieter Rams created in collaboration with Hans Gugelot; the 606 Universal Shelving System for Vitsœ. An important focus of Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams is the historical as well as the design context of Dieter Rams’ oeuvre, that’s why the exhibition also shows works by Peter Behrens, Russian Constructivism, De Stijl, the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation), the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung), Hans Gugelot, Peter Raacke and Richard Sapper.

The above video is an excerpt of an exhibition walkthrough combined with an interview with the Co-curator of the exhibition and Head of Exhibitions of the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp. In this excerpt, he focuses on the Design language of the Braun product design.

In the full-length version of this segement, available after the jump, Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp elaborates on the history of the exhibition, Dieter Rams’ work for Braun and Vitsœ, Dieter Rams and his influence on other product designers, and the essence of Rams’ Design Ethos.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams. Exhibition walkthrough and interview with Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp. Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, July 29, 2010.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.
> dvd-icon.gif DVD available.

Full-length version (24:41 min.):
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams is an exhibition project realized on the initiative of the Suntory Museum, Osaka, and the Fuchu Art Museum, Tokyo. In 2006, the Suntory Museum invited Prof. Klaus Klemp, Head of Exhibitions at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, to act as guest curator for a major retrospective on Dieter Rams. Carried out in collaboration with the Suntory Museum’s design curator Keiko Ueki-Polet, the resulting exhibition was first shown in the autumn of 2008 in Osaka, then at Fuchu Art Museum in Tokyo, and then at the London Design Museum. An extensive catalogue in German and English was published in December 2009.


November 21 2009

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