Ed Kienholz – The Ozymandias Parade

IMG-20121207-01225Confronting (and that’s what it is, a confrontation) Ed Kienholz’s The Ozymandias Parade at Pace Gallery is a wonderfully jarring experience. Profound and silly, meaningful through a montage of manipulated meanings, the installation is intensely dark and scary because, like all of Kienholz’s work, it hits way too close to the perverbial home. As always, the marginalized reflects us, our struggles and our history. Historical trauma manifested, shown in all its grossly entertaining forms. Kienholz is an utter master at revealing that which society prefers to keep under wraps but shoving it in our face – his works cannot be ignored. They are shockingly beautiful in their ugly honesty (with a big middle finger implied). 

From Pace…
The centerpiece of the exhibition is the incendiary large-scale installation The Ozymandias Parade (1985), an opulent allegory of the abuse of political power, with a parade of figures and symbols representing elements of society. The decadent, nationalistic “ship of fools” is capped with nearly 700 blinking lights, which change with each presentation to reflect the colors of the nation where the work is being displayed. Addressing the corrosive effects of fear and propaganda, the tableau depicts a chaotic world turned upside-down: an armed general rides on the back of a fragile female figure who is lured by the “carrot” of a crucifix; the vice president’s horse has toppled off of his roller skates; the menacing, headless vice president faces backwards, blowing a trumpet and waving the flag; the sinister president clings to the belly of his horse, a red phone clutched in his hand and a yellow rubber ducky on his head. Whether the parade’s president shows a YES or a NO across his face is the result of a poll conducted in the weeks leading up to the installation’s opening, comprised of just one simple question: “Are you satisfied with your government?”

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