Back Seat Dodge ’38 is an assemblage sculpture created by Ed Kienholz in 1964. The controversial artwork features a truncated 1938 Dodge coupe with a young couple inside, engaged in sexual activity and surrounded by beer bottles. The woman is made of cast plaster while the man is crafted from chicken wire. Recorded music, player, artificial grass, and other objects complete the installation.
Originally considered too pornographic for display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Back Seat Dodge ’38 gained popularity due to its notoriety. In 1966, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors threatened to shut down an exhibition of Kienholz’s work at LACMA because they found the sculpture pornographic and unsuitable for public display. However, this only increased public interest in the sculpture.
Today, Back Seat Dodge ’38 is one of Kienholz’s most famous works and is part of the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This work challenges traditional notions of art by incorporating everyday objects into a provocative narrative that questions societal norms regarding sex and relationships.