John Doe is an early work from Ed Kienholz, a multimedia artist best known for his installations composed out of found objects. John Doe serves as an excellent example of Kienholz extensive use of everyday materials in his artwork and his morbid fascination with themes that often invoke darkness. He uses oil, metallic paint, resin, plaster and graphite on parts taken from several mannequins to create the main structure whilst the additional details are derived from wood, metal, plastic, paper and rubber.
Perhaps one of the most significant characteristics of John Doe is its indictment of U.S. military interventions, a topic which Kienholz was keen to comment on regularly – especially when it came to the Vietnam War. This piece is a striking sentiment towards the way human lives can be subject to manipulations by powers they cannot control.
Kienholz’s interest in highlighting strong political messages continues with another renowned work from 1961 – History As A Planter. This time around he utilized pieces of urban furniture such as streetlamps, signs and like elements – recombining them into expressive scenes that served as his platform for social commentary.