Edward Kienholz, Back Seat Dodge ’38 (1964)

In 1966, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors threatened to shut down an exhibition of Edward Kienholz’s work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The board declared Kienholz’s sculpture of a drunken amorous encounter, titled Back Seat Dodge ’38, pornographic and unfit for the museum. The curators disputed the claim, insisting upon its status as an artwork. The piece remained in the show under one condition: the back seat door to the truncated car would stay closed unless an adult visitor requested it to be opened. The controversy resulted in very high attendance.

Back Seat Dodge ’38 is now part of the permanent collection at LACMA, and has been exhibited two more times since its debut; both times with the car door open. A 1969 documentary film about the exhibition and the censorship debate can be viewed here here.