Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Vague Division

The following text is taken from a review of Ed Kienholz’s retrospective at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, in Gateshead, England. The review is written by Guardian art critic, Adrian Searle. The selection speaks for itself.
“Another of these Conceptual Tableaux, which are among the most impressive 'unmade' works of the 1960s, deserves recording in full. This is The Black Leather Chair, from 1966: ‘This is a tableau about the Negro in America. The piece is simply a black leather chair completely covered in a block of lucite plastic and mounted on a suitable base. On the left side is a tunnel in the plastic where the viewer can reach in and touch one small portion of the chair.

‘It is possible that I will never be able to make this tableau as I do not have the chair in my possession at this time. It is stored in an attic in Texas and is the property of a Negro family there. I am told by a friend that although the family is reluctant to part with it, he will be able to get it for me some time in the future.

‘The leather on the chair is made from the skin of his great-grandfather.’

Some works don't need to be made, and exist best (if that's the word) in the imagination. Once read, this terrifying and haunting statement, and the possible existence of the chair itself, are fixed in the memory. At the foot of the statement, Kienholz stipulates that payment for this work is to be made to the American Civil Liberties Union. This is as sorrowful as art gets, and as much of an indictment as art can make.”

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