The State Hospital
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melliot's picture


Edward Kienholz brings you to a hospital of horrors. 

Talk about a nightmare! Trapped. Forgotten. Helpless. Dehumanized.

In his early twenties, Kienholz worked as an orderly in Idaho at a state run mental institution. Not a great first job. He incorporated the patient abuse and degradation he had witnessed into a stark, uncompromising sculptural tableau. The figure on the bottom bunk, coated in resin with a fishbowl for a head, is replicated on the top bunk. A neon thought bubble encases the top figure. With utter and absolute resignation, he is dreaming of himself.

Kienholz chose Ed Born, an acquaintance who was dying of cancer, to be the model for his plaster casts. He wanted to portray a man who was in the state of living death. Ed Born was so sick he could not move.

To make the scene even more gruesome, the patient is entrapped in a white room resembling a cell, isolated and alone. We can view this work only through the bars of a small window in the padlocked door. We are voyeurs. Helpless indeed.

Note, too, a classic Kienholz touch, two live black fish swimming around in each fishbowl head. They make for crazy eyes.