FIVE CAR STUD, EDWARD KIENHOLZ, 1969-1972

This work was presented for the first time in Documenta 5, in Kassel. It consists of five cars in a circle, pointing at a central sculpture that represents white men beating a black man.
The scene reminds of the stereotypical american outdoor cinema, but instead of a movie screen we have something that is really happening. This is obviously an attack to the racism that was perpetrated by white men especially in those years in the United States (even if it is a problem still today).
The strength of this artwork is that it forces you to look at that violent scene, being the room all black with the only lights (the cars’ ones) pointing at the center. You just cannot stop looking at it. Also, the fact that it resembles an outdoor cinema gives it a creepy interpretation: it suggests that this type of violence is seen as a show to attend to, an entertaining performance to whatch. Moreover, it is impossible not to feel involved in a way, because you can walk through the entire space. This is what we call an “experience”, and even if this is often the main aim of contemporary artists, it is very difficult to achieve. In this case it is possible due to the things we mentioned and to the contrast between the message and the way of comunicating it: the scene is so violent, but we see it as we were in the middle of a “movie night”.
#funfact: this work remained impossible to see after Documenta 5, because it was possessed by a japanese collector. It is possible to see it only from 2011-12! Even if it was supposed to speak to the people of the ’70s, it is interesting to see how it is so powerful still today.
We really suggest to take a look of his others works of art, as many of them are at least as powerful as this one!
– M.C.
Bibliography and further readings:
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