Haim Steinbach — Navy legacy
Past: April 14 → May 26, 2012
Laurent Godin Gallery presents its second solo exhibition by the acclaimed artist Haim Steinbach.
The title of the exhibition, Navy Legacy, conjures images of an expansive blue plane of ocean and the streamlined vessels that travel across these surfaces. Legacy is defined as thing handed down by a predecessor, a thing that prevails and continues, as for instance an object, an original idea or vision. It can also denote software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use. In parallel, Steinbach employs art historical references and builds new roles into a host of objects.
Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer is met by an architectural intervention — a leaning wall that bisects the long corridor of the gallery. This site-specific work sets the stage for a sequence of effects and themes such as metonymy, the body and narrative, all operating as if in chain-reaction throughout navy legacy.
The angled wall creates a triangular space the viewer must pass under in order to continue through the exhibition. This triangular entry is akin to the side elevation view of Steinbach’s iconic shelf sculptures. These iconic works are a central component in the artist’s practice; the structuralist shelf acts as a device, a support and stage for the everyday objects Steinbach selects. Steinbach’s arrangements, in concert and in tension with one another, initiate the performative nature inherent in objects. Subtly, perhaps, the viewer becomes a performer, like the objects in Steinbach’s sculptures.
Contingent to the angled wall, a shelf work displays two objects: a glass case housing several papier-mâché fruits next to a worn Chinese wood head rest. Themes of the exotic and the organic begin to take form. Opposite, an enlarged wall-text, a found object, _“No Elephants” _comes into view. This text work is adjacent to the back gallery where an enormous roughly hewn sphere rests — almost taking over the entirety of the room. In relation to the wall text, this colossal organic sphere may then obliquely personify the idiom, “an elephant in the room”.
The sphere may belong to several possible allusions. The myth of Sisyphus and models of planets come to mind. Facing the sphere, an unusually elongated shelf in forsythia yellow displays objects that formally repeat the sphere: seven bocce balls and one Hulk figurine with spherical fists posed for action. Both the bocce balls and the Hulk also relate to the games both adults and children play: self-projection through the Hulk, the desire to become larger than the self, and the continuation of children’s games via adult leisure activities. Just as children project themselves into miniaturized toys, the grandiose shift in scale reasserts Steinbach’s interest in the unconscious, memory and imagination held in common objects.
At the end of the corridor, one of Steinbach’s box works houses a single object: a Lego toy behind glass. This hyper-designed toy, ostensibly a charging vehicle, for what role we cannot quite be sure, possibly activates the reading of the colossal sphere as a force, even a cannon ball. However, the potential movement of the sphere is made inert by the gallery walls. A subtext of harbored uncertainty underlies the initial reading of this playful constellation of objects. In the gallery office, photo-realistic jungle wallpaper faces the desk. Embedded at the base of the wall is a work titled “Gate Valve”_. A gate valve is used to control the flow of water, it reiterates water as volume and honors hidden spaces within architecture often overlooked. In dialogue with this work, its counterpart is located opposite on the gallery desk, “Prototype for a Gate Valve”_. The prototype is a miniaturized model of a mastodon vertebrae displayed inside of a bell jar. In contrast to the functions of the office, the bell jar harkens to historicized forms of display like the Wunderkammer. Both the scale of the site-specific works and the autonomous works in this exhibition create a complex of connections to time, artifice, human behavior and the innumerable spaces of the corporeal.
Opening Friday, April 13, 2012 6 PM → 9 PM