15 November - 21 December, 2003
Lars Bohman Gallery
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Galleri Lars Bohman is pleased to present an exhibition of new sculptures and drawings by the German artist Stephan Balkenhol. In this, his third exhibition at the gallery, Balkenhol continues his investigation of the figurative sculptural tradition, updating a classical impulse from a present-day perspective.

Balkenhol deploys a vocabulary from traditional sculpture - carved wood, pedestals, polychrome - to singular, very contemporary ends. His subject is the human figure, but his intention is to reflect on the present, not commemorate the past. This vitality can be seen in what the artist calls ‘the adventures of the small man in white shirt and black pants,’ an ‘everyman’ who always maintains a serene presence even in the face of frequently outrageous circumstances.

Balkenhol creates figures that are ordinary rather than idealised, and anonymous rather than heroic, this is further emphasised by his use of wood rather than marble or bronze. His sculptures convey a universal humanism, and his colourfully painted figures may be seen as the familiar strangers that occupy our everyday lives, young men and women wearing ordinary clothing and introspective expressions, without any explicit reference to profession, function or social status.

Balkenhol’s unconcern with meticulous realism is corroborated by his emphasis on the production process, which can be perceived in the evidence of a usually hasty handling of the surface. Balkenhol’s sculptures and pedestals are hewn from one block of wood (often soft woods such as wawa or poplar) and then the surface is hand-painted, except for the flesh of the figure which is left natural. The wood is carved so that every bite of the chisel is visible and these splintered and chisel-marked surfaces suggest a raw fragility. Whether sculpting humans, animals, or scenes from his imagination, there is always something strange and enticing about his mute, reserved and peacefully contemplative figures. The artist’s presence is discernible in every mark, reinforcing the humanity of his enterprise.

These works acknowledge the ever-present complexities between the individual and the universal. Neal Benezra, Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, has stated: ‘At a time when all manner of political, social, and cultural dogma seems open to question, it may just be possible for Stephan Balkenhol to breathe new life into figurative sculpture.’

Stephan Balkenhol was born in Fritzlar/Hessen, Germany in 1957, and lives and works in Meisenthal, France. He attended the Hochschule för Bildende Künste in Hamburg and studied for Ulrich Ruckreim. He is professor at the Academie für Bildene Künst, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany; Le Rectangle and Goethe Institute, Lyon, France; Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London in 2003. Begegnungsstätte Kleine Synagoge Erfurt, Erfurt in 2002. Kunstforum Baloise, Basel, Switzerland; Centro Galego de Arte Contemporaneo, Santiago de Compostela, Spain and Museum der Bildenden Künste Leipzig, Germany in 2001.