28.04 — 08.08.2010One Man ShowStephan Balkenhol
Stephan Balkenhol is an internationally renowned German artists, famous for his figurative painted wooden sculptures and reliefs.
Balkenhol started sculptural wood carving in the mid-1980s. He attended the Hamburg School of Fine Arts from 1976 to 1982, studying under Ulrich Rückriem with Nam June Paik and Sigmar Polke among his tutors. As a response to the abstract, minimalist and conceptual approaches of the Hamburg School, Balkenhol focused his work on the idea of everyday persona, instead of an artificially embellished image of an idol or hero. By the 1990s, his repertoire had expanded to include animals and hybrid creatures, as well as architectural motifs and reliefs.
Balkenhol’s totem-like sculptures of everyday people are reminiscent of both folk art and medieval sculpture. His figures emanate timelessness: simple, plain-colored clothing and the confident yet unassuming poses of familiar yet anonymous men and women who show no subjective feelings or emotions and contain no sociological or socio-critical references.
The artist uses a variety of woods, such as poplar, Douglas fir and wawa wood, and hand carves each piece from a single block using hammers, power saws and chisels, leaving behind shavings and traces visible in the wood, with its knots, grain, and cracks. He then uses paint to structure the sculpture and accentuate the anatomy, without in any way heightening the figure’s expressiveness. His human figures are never polished to waxy smoothness and artifice – just like humans, they would not be unique without imperfections. The rough surfaces and cuts create a sense of life force hidden inside seemingly apathetic human’s faces, reflecting artist’s spirit and faith in humanity.
“Figurative sculpture is often misused as a bearer of messages. In my vision my sculptures become a question, a mirror. And it is the viewer who fills it with meaning.”
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
Hirshhorn Museum (Washington, DC, USA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
MOCA (Los Angeles, USA)
Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, USA)
Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt (Frankfurt, Germany)
Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA, USA)
Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
The Broad (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Chase Manhattan Art Purchase Program (New York, NY, USA)
Johnson County Community College (Overland Park, KS, USA)
Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham, AL, USA)
Le CEAAC (Strasbourg, France)
Mission Bay Community Center (San Francisco, CA, USA)
Pasadena Museum of California Art (Los Angeles, CA, USA)