Artist Edward Kienholz created a large installation piece called The State Hospital in 1966. The artwork was inspired by Kienholz’s experiences working as an attendant in a psychiatric hospital during the late 1940s. It comprises of a crate-like box coated with an institutional-looking white exterior and locked with padlocks.
Inside, there are two life-sized naked figures positioned horizontally and bound to metal bed-frames. They lay surrounded by grimy mattresses and dirty bedpans, signifying the poor conditions of mental institutions. Kienholz used found objects such as hospital beds, tables, and goldfish bowls in creating The State Hospital.
The artwork is intended to showcase the harsh reality of patients at mental institutions experiencing poor conditions. It serves as an indictment against the institution’s administrators whose malpractices subjected inmates to such treatment. The State Hospital reveals Kienholz’s distaste for these institutions’ standards while also acting as social commentary on broader issues around public healthcare facilities.
In summary, Edward Kienholz’s art installation titled The State Hospital portrays the inhumane treatment that psychiatric patients experience in mental health institutions through a crate-like structure, gruesome details like filthy mattresses and bedpans surrounding two bound, life-sized naked figures inside it. This account exposes practices that occured within these facilities, serves as social commentary on broader public healthcare issues facing many countries by relying mostly on found objects from hospitals or garbage piles nearby for construction purposes symbolizes how desperate people were regarding assistance available through governmental infrastructure at this time.