October 5, 2011
Focus on the Collection – Pedicord Apts.
Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s Pedicord Apts. appears as if it were crane-lifted directly out of the doomed, derelict Spokane building that gave it its name. The large-scale environmental artwork is in fact, a painstakingly built and precisely crafted art object that stages an immersive tableau vivant (living picture), using scale and sound to address issues of alienation, human relationships, and the urban-lived experience. Though the artist pair almost always included elements of “real life” in their work, those elements were never simply presented or even re-presented. All the details of Pedicord Apts. were carefully planned and executed by the Kienholzs, members of their crew, or artistic collaborators. Constructed and first shown in the early 1980s, this environmental, interactive sculpture is one in a group of works known generally as the Spokane series. Constructed entirely from building scraps salvaged before the wrecking of Spokane’s Pedicord Hotel, Pedicord Apts. is part brutal realism and part fun house.
While the artists intended the work to appear to a certain degree soiled and grubby, it was through review of the detailed condition notes kept by WAM registrars over the last eighteen years and the occasion of the Gehry-designed WAM expansion that prompted a more thorough conservation project for the piece. When the decision was made to relocate the work in the WAM galleries, the Weisman crew and registrars set to work examining details, records, and the technological elements of the piece. After discussion amongst registrars, curators, and a conservator, the museum approached Nancy Reddin Kienholz to discuss her memory of the construction, the intention of the work, and her thoughts on the conservation effort. As sole surviving creator sine Edward’s death in 1994, she gave direction to WAM registrars and a professional conservator on this complicated project to restore the work while maintaining the carefully executed “run-down” effect that defines Pedicord Apts. According to the artist, the piece should exude a feeling of benign neglect, mirroring the life of the real Pedicord Hotel and so many other middle-class abodes in neighborhoods that over time, because of larger social forces in the urban fabric, become less desirable and eventually derelict. Always interested in the human element, the artists were concerned with both new but particularly older residents, who for a host of reasons, ended up staying in such homes even as they deteriorated in quality.
For an art conservator this project needed both research into photographs of the piece when it was new and an act of interpretation in order to help restore not just the physical details but also the overall feeling of the piece. WAM registrars and curators felt the original rug needed to be replaced as it was worn through in places. The artist agreed that since the carpet could certainly not be matched exactly, a similar level of quality rug should be found and then carefully worked to feel quite used and less than carefully kept up. The lobby elements were to be treated in the same way. The artificial plant was to be restored to its previously limited-from-the-start decorative aesthetic. The mirror was meant to look used, out of date, and cheap. The resin on the walls was unique in this effort as it was always intended to age naturally, collecting dust and the occasional bug to add to the piece’s final shabby patina. Because this was the artist’s original intention, very little was done to the resin surfaces.
Now restored, Pedicord Apt. has been returned to its proper level of dilapidation. While acknowledging the bit of irony in such an effort, Reddin Kienholz and WAM staff were committed to honoring the original intent of the piece and to a conservation that utilized as careful a crafting as was employed by the artists in creating the work.
Taken from the Fall 2011 Newsletter.