Rebellious, provocative, and ever polarizing, Kienholz’s oeuvre has always caused quite a stir since its beginnings in the mid-1950s, first the works of Ed Kienholz alone, then later, from 1972 on, the collaborative projects with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz. This is scarcely astonishing, since religion, war, death, and the more inscrutable sides of society and its social conflicts have always been at the center of their works. Dealing with such subjects as the sexual exploitation of women in prostitution, the role of the media, and the effects of ethnic conflicts,they pinpoint fractures of Western societies which have hardly been remedied to this day and thus lend the oeuvre its unmitigated topicality.

But this contemporaneity is not due solely to the themes dealt with; today we view the works as anticipating central trends in contemporary art: Jonathan Meese, Thomas Hirschhorn, and even John Bock. Since the major retrospective in New York, Los Angeles, and Berlin in 1996, the exhibition at the Schirn will be the first to show a series of the spectacular “moral tableaus” together with the impressive smaller sculptures.