The Jerry Can Standard

Edward and Nancy Kienholz
The Jerry Can Standard
Mixed media, edition 14 of 26, 1981
67 1/2 x 18 x 12 inches
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. James Croul, Alan and Kay Davison, Johanna and Gene Felder, Janet Taylor Gosselin, Dr. and Mrs. John Kennady, Richard Mumper, Kristen Paulson, Ted and Suzanne Paulson, Joan B. Rehnborg, Jacqueline Schroeder, and Anne E. Summers, and Mr. and Mrs. Eric A. Wittenberg.
1990.001

In 1979, the artists began signing all the work with both of their names. The Jerry Can Standard is one of a series of works called The Tin TVs, which the Kienholzes made in collaboration with Gemini G.E.L. beginning in the late 1970s. The Jerry Can Standard is made from assorted found objects, including a gasoline can, TV antenna, TV stand, doily, Fresnel lens, and light bulb. It also comes equipped with a tape player, which plays sound effects from a Western movie and crowd noises from a German soccer match recorded backward.

Around the time of the publication of The Tin TVs series, Gemini G.E.L. created an ersatz newsprint ad selling the TVs or works of art at cutthroat prices. The ad had this to say about The Jerry Can Standard: “A Give Away Price of Only $6,195. An inexpensive piece straight out of the surplus store. Comes with its own custom stand and no picture, only a light and a suggestive sound track. Marvel as you imagine there is actually something going on. This set will fool you just like real TV does. It can be had for a cheap 10% Surcharge.”

Edward Kienholz sent a lengthy letter to Sidney Felsen, founding partner of Gemini G.E.L., dated January 4, 1984, explaining that he and Nancy Reddin Kienholz continued to make works in the series because of their love/hate relationship with American TV. “In my thinking,” he wrote, “prime time should be understood as the individual span each of us has left to live here on earth. It’s a short, short interval and deserves the best quality possible. Certainly better than the boob tube pap we all permit in the name of bigger profits and free enterprise.”