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Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz Useful Art #5: The Western Hotel, 1992

Video transcript

bruce gunther and tina olsen in the juban center for modern and contemporary art we're standing in front of a work by Edie Keane Holtz and Nancy redden Kienholz an artist collaborating team who shared studios in Hope Idaho and Berlin Germany and we're standing here but as we're standing I'm looking at this incredible object and it really isn't a sculpture and hearing it because because there's a radio playing isn't there yes and there's a table lamp with the light on and a bowl of melting ice cream and a one of those wonderfully deshabille chairs with still the imprint of someone who's sat there too long and an old pair of shoes this is assemblage art art that happens from the bits and pieces of daily life reassembled by the artist right because there's definitely like like we've been transported into it the King hotel room well you know it's it's called the useful art number five the Western motel this is in a funny way of vignette through the dark lens of at Kean Holt's Anansie looking at Americana of the state highway those little motels that populated America little units attached with a carport one to another like a train and here we're at the office a red vacancy sign buzzing in the window you can probably hear it and the window is a free-standing wall on the outside we see the outside of the window right the venetian blinds the drywall aged and kind of spattered with rain it the verisimilitude the reality of this is omnipresent right but it's it is but it isn't because on the one hand here we are and we can actually stand outside the wall of this room look through the window and then of course at the same time walk around it and right inside of the room and the other thing that's that's really kind of disrupts that sense of looking you know at a representation is that we see the wire that makes this thing work we see that it's on what is it is it a pallet what is it sitting on there the keynotes has created two platforms with faux brick paving linoleum and they have aluminum wrapped handles so you could pick it up and carry it just the way that much of American culture is portable and and it's a motel and it's all those kind of funny notes right it's a motel and it's also a motel that evokes the road and evokes the highway and evokes this kind of transient culture of people who don't really stay and and yet there's someone who has stayed for a lifetime what I find really revealing about it and the poignancy emotionally for me are this old man slippers the half-consumed bottle of Jim Beam bourbon a few magazines by soldier of fortune and Western tales and then the pipes laying there on the table it's a man perhaps a veteran living out the last days of his life managing a little motel on a road that no one uses so we step into this other world this other space Kienholz is evoke for us a whole environment a whole space verse but if I look down and I look around of course here I am in the galleries yes it's it's that whole tradition in twentieth-century art of tableau and assemblage from the early cubist paintings that incorporated chair caning and ropes and bits of newspaper to the surrealist who would evoke the the internal dreaming of the mind through objects recontextualized the fur line teacup to Joseph Cornell and American art and the vignettes of the pop artists right and if I really think about it as I stand right at the very edge of this object I mean really where does it begin and it end when do we know that we're outside of its space and when do we know that we're in it I mean if I put my arm I'm kind of in the space but there's a different floor to the space there's clear outlines to it yes it has a contained periphery that's psychological right yes our experience because we recognize every element that makes it up from the rag rug to the clock to the visa symbol it is our world and yet we're observers and we see something at an arm's length that we may never have personally experienced but we know this place we know this place so well and we know this stuff so well this detritus and this stuff of our own life the dirt yeah the plastic encased am/fm radio slightly squawky slightly out of tune but there where does art and and life take up and can you even make a line between the two you