Edward Kienholz is best known for creating three-dimensional immersive environments from items he collected at yard sales and flea markets. Kienholz was also a key figure in Los Angeles’s art scene and a cofounder of the Ferus Gallery, an important venue for emerging creatives. Throughout his body of work, the artist tended to focus on portraying the darker side of contemporary life, taking on themes such as political corruption, moral hypocrisy, and the oppression of marginalized groups in the United States. While Kienholz’s assembly of objects in The Minister is at first humorous, there are numerous layers and potential meanings within the composition. The butcher’s scale, for example, is painted to look like a minister. This brings to mind the phrase a “pound of flesh,” which traces its origin to William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice. The figure of speech has come to refer to a payment extracted from the person from which it is owed, causing great distress.
Label from Giant Steps: Artists and the 1960s, June 30–December 30, 2018