Boy, Son of John Doe is one of the earliest examples of Kienholz's freestanding assemblages and is the symbolic off-spring of John Doe and Jane Doe which the artist created in 1959.
In John Doe, 1959 the sculptor makes a savage statement about the integrity of the archetypal American male, presenting him as an injured and a pathetic victim. His counterpart, Jane Doe, 1959 is attacked as freely and with equal mercilessness. The present work, Boy, Son of John Doe, 1961 is like his "parents," a reflection of moral decline. Kienholz referred to this tall young man as a "punk" who needs his toys to define his masculinity. He is his car, and we, the viewer, open him up to reveal the goods that define this boy: vinyl records, a baseball glove, liquor bottle, paperback book entitled, The Impotent Fear Through the Erogenous Zone, condoms, playing cards, among many other objects associated with rites of passage.
The creation of these early figures marks a critical moment when the artist began to combine actual everyday objects in work that would embody his insights about our everyday thoughts and lives. The figures are absurb, humorous, pathetic and tragic, as are the materials used in their making. Kienholz has an extraordinary sense of venacular imagery and the materials which he used convey a venacular ambience.
His figures seems to take on specific personalities to a degree that keep them from becoming the lifeless props of an all too obvious allegory. His insistent use of idiosyncratic detail somehow seems essential to the power of Kienholz's work to engage and sustain our interest.
The creation of Boy, Son of John Doe, from flea market to finished work, was documented in the David Wolper film The Story of an Artist, 1961.