The Illegal Operation

Ed Kienholz, The Illegal Operation, 1962

Edward Kienholz, The Illegal Operation, 1962

Last week we installed Ed Kienholz’s sculpture, The Illegal Operation, which was purchased in October as a result of a hugely gratifying community-wide fundraising effort. The Illegal Operation, a commentary on back-street abortion, was just featured in a major L.A. art exhibition in Stockholm, and I was eager to put the much-discussed recent acquisition on view as soon as it returned.

Installing The Illegal Operation also gave us the opportunity to feature two other early Kienholz sculptures, A Lady Named Zoa (below right) and History as a Planter (left), that hadn’t been on view for some time. Together, they represent a sampling of our remarkable Kienholz holdings, which include more than twenty objects, one being the iconic Back Seat Dodge ’38.

On a personal level, it is thrilling to finally be able to show this work that I first encountered in L.A. decades ago. When I first saw The Illegal Operation in the home of the collectors who bought it from Kienholz, I was stunned. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. It has haunted me for thirty years.

Stephanie Barron, Senior Curator, Modern Art

4 Responses to The Illegal Operation

  1. Thank you, Stephanie. As always there is something wonderful to draw me back to LACMA’s galleries, and many of those reasons are a result of your keen curatorial vision. ‘Hope to get down to see the Two Germanys show soon.

  2. David Ross says:

    It is wonderful that LACMA found the support necessary to bring this great work of art into its collection. Far more powerful and important than “Back Seat Dodge”, it was one of the very first works to deal frankly with the horror of a world in which women were (and in many parts of the world still are) denied the ability to chose. Bravo to LACMA and the patrons who understood why this work HAD to be in a great public collection. Kienholz was a rare cultural treasure, and I miss his powerful moral wit.

  3. Frank Lloyd says:

    Congratulations to LACMA and Stephanie Barron for the acquisition and installation of this powerful tableau. I’ve seen the piece in the collector’s home and in previous exhibitions, but this presentation looks like the best.

  4. Dale says:

    A very powerful piece of work. Its a pity that there is not more artists to challenge like Kienholz did

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