The Illegal Operation

February 4, 2009
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