Cat. Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Edited by Matthias Winzen
texts (German/English) by Matthias Winzen, Harriet Zilch
304 p with 400 coloured illustrations
290 x 230 mm, hardcover
Stephan Balkenhol: Sculptor
Stephan Balkenhol (born 1957) is one of those trail-blazing German sculptors who in the last two decades has also exerted a great influence internationally. The Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden is devoting an extensive exhibition to the oeuvre of this sculptor, who has been teaching at the Kunstakademie Karlsruhe since 1992. The show will focus on Balkenhol’s technical mastery and on the diversity of his intellectual and cultural references. The human form, the head, animals, and recently also architecture, are the motifs which Balkenhol chooses for his sculptures, drawings and photographs.
To a certain extent Balkenhol’s creative approach is a response to the minimalist strategies of Ulrich Rückriem, his teacher at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1976 to 1982. Since the early 1980s, Balkenhol has been exploring what can actually be shown, sensed, seen by means of statuary images against the backdrop of the current engagement with the tradition of classical sculpture.
At the centre of Balkenhol’s work is the human form. The artist gouges his figures out of the tree trunk; traces left by the tools, branch notches and splits in the wood are left visible. Paint is used in a reduced form to structure the sculpture. The figures seem both personal and anonymous. Gestures, poses and facial expressions suggest both inner distance and an attentive openness towards the viewer. Balkenhol’s figures are not lively »storytellers«. Instead the artist seeks to condense human physiognomy and appearance, with the result that his figures seem unpretentious, unobtrusive and simultaneously removed from time: »I don’t want talkative, expressive figures, which is why I seek an open expression from out of which all states are possible.« The openness of his figures, the renunciation of gesture and a narrative context, is a counter reaction to a deliberately present-oriented or illustrative figuration that may well address an individual aspect, but, being a kind of instantaneous take, restricts all other possible interpretations.
In addition to the sculptures and reliefs dedicated to the human figure, the animal, mythical motifs and architecture, the voluminous book will feature the many-sided and often less known facets of this artist’s sculptural work and his large drawings and photographs.
Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 15/07–17/09/06
Museum Küppersmühle für moderne Kunst, Duisburg, 28/09–03/12/06
Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Mönchsberg, 17/02–24/06/07