Saturday, 26 March 2016

Paul Bogaers / Edward Kienholz

Edward Kienholz
The Beanery
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

One of the first works of art that I remember having made a huge impression on me was ‘The Beanery’, an installation of Edward Kienholz that forms part of the collection of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam for as long as I can remember. It is a near life-size (in fact it measures a slightly alienating and claustrophobic  of the original size), walk-in artwork which Kienholz created in 1965, representing the interior of a Los Angeles bar, called Barney’s Beanery. As soon as you enter the work it surrounds you completely; it features the smells and sounds of the bar, and models of customers, all of whom have clocks for faces with the time set at 10:10. Only the model of Barney, the owner, has a real face. Kienholz is quoted as saying "The entire work symbolizes the switch from real time (symbolized by a newspaper) to the surrealist time inside the bar, where people waste time, kill time, forget time, and ignore time".

Some years before I went to art school I got deeply interested in surrealist art and correlative techniques of creation such as montage, collage and assemblage. To me the work of Kienholz seemed a brilliant example of the field that fascinated me; it combined a strong expressive power with a inescapable subject-matter (that of ‘the human condition’ but of social criticism as well), a combination that proved irresistible for a searching and desperate teenager like I was. In art school, subsequently, we were learned to despise works of art with too much subject-matter and drama (which all had the name of being ‘anecdotic’, which was definitely a swearing), and like the other students I forgot for most part about surrealism, and forgot about Kienholz altogether.

Only recently, after I had finished the preparations for my exhibition ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ (in Foam museum for photography, Amsterdam), I realized that my recent work had a lot in common with the works of Kienholz that must long have been slumbering somewhere in the back of my mind, but nevertheless proved to have had its influence on the things I recently had created. Earlier in my career I had experimented a lot with combining photographs, with using ‘found footage’ in my work and even with the use of collage techniques to write an entire novel. It wasn’t earlier than this stage, however, that I found myself starting to work with real objects, not in a photographed version but applying them as dimensional parts in my works. It was not until now that the inspiring approach of Kienholz came to my conscious memory again – his choice for objects from flea markets and thrift stores, objects that not only had a use and a meaning, but also possessed a life, although most of it lying behind them. Only now I realized that he must have been one of my inspiring masters all the time.

Of course there’s still a lot to argue about the art of Edward Kienholz, but for now I will refrain from that – nothing but good should be said about the dead!

Paul Bogaers, 2015

Paul Bogaers (NL)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
exhibition in Foam museum for photography, Amsterdam
installation view

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