Stephan Balkenhol / Allyson Vieira

Milano - 15/12/2011 : 25/02/2012

Mostra doppia personale degli artisti Stephan Balkenhol


Comunicato stampa

We are please to announce an exhibition of new works by Stephan Balkenhol, one of the most prominent contemporary sculptors, whom we represent in Italy since 1996. In recent years he has created also many public works, among these a monumental sculpture of a male torso shown at the Foro di Cesare in Roma in 2010: a contemporary presence among the ancient ruins.

Stephan Balkenhol was born in Fritzlar (Hessen) in Germany in 1957 and since more than twenty years has been breathing new life into figurative sculpture with intense and original work

After leaving the Hamburg Academy, where he studied with the German minimalist sculptor Ulrich Rückreim, Balkenhol soon discovered his preference for wood as a material and his interest in wanting “to reinvent the figure”.

The human figure, animals, and recently also architecture, are the motifs Balkenhol chooses for his sculptures. He gouges them out of a tree trunk, and the 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 sculptures. 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 absence 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, would restrict all other possible interpretations. By turning to themes of everyday in his sculptures, relief and extensive installations, the artist has fathomed new aesthetic dimensions - also in the public domain and in the context of architecture - and thereby made new options available for contemporary sculpture.

Since 1984 he has shown extensively in European and American galleries and museums, among these the Museè de Grenoble in 2010, Deichtorhallen Hamburg in 2008-2009, MKM Duisburg, Museum der Moderne Salzburg and Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea Milano in 2007, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden in 2006, National Museum of Art of Osaka in 2005, Sprengel Museum of Hannover in 2003.

Allyson Vieira: Aphrodite

For the first time in Italy, we present works by Allyson Vieira, American artist born in Massachussets in 1979.

Vieira investigates history as a succession of empires and legacies, mythologies and mutations. More specifically, she takes as her subject the enduring object-record that is repeatedly relocated, copied, re-animated and canonized. Informed as much by the ancient pyramid builders as power tools, the artist approaches her work as a form of industrial production that questions the relationship of matter, material and form. She locates the slippery instant when raw material transforms into form, suggesting that any extant form is simultaneously new material, pregnant with the potential of a yet unknown other form. Vieira poses the question, “perhaps history, as well as material, can be re-used in this way-re-inhabiting without replicating?”

She elects to work with plaster because it is the material of three-dimensional reproduction-it can never stand in for anything but an object, with a sole pur pose to take on the form of something else. Often these sculptures are casts; they are built not as indipendent forms, but rather the companion to another. This relationship between form and formed is analogous to Vieira’s intent to invoke the varied ways in which history consumes itself, reissuing moments once seen as revolutionary as recognizable, identifiable standars. Pulling together the radicalism of defining periods ranging from ancient Greece to Minimalism, Vieira does not become mired in the past, but instead demonstrates how the present object is never autonomous.

While the indexical evidente of the artist’s hand has been a source of debate in twentieth-century art history, Vieira’s own hands are literally present in many of her works. In her bas-reliefs, large slabs are textured with fists and fingers, creating a complex landscape recalling ancient friezes worn away with time, or a tale of an undefined struggle. The pairing of flesh to plaster is meant to exist beyond the moment of its making, but it also avoids a sense of monumentalization. The tactile bas-relief, again in Vieira’s signature untreated plaster, are laboriously moulded by imprints of her hand. The form long, sinewy fingers and hard-hitting fists add a more nuanced, yet no less physical, transformation of the blank-slate material. The titled New (Not Completely Novel)-nod to re-makes, as well as the contemporary impossibility of reading these sculptures independently of ancient connotations. Vieira’s casts are fossilized actions, marking the temporal influence of the human imprint; they exist between a present moment and past movement, a historical setting and a recent gesture.

The artist is concerned with how things endure, and what forms resist change throughout human history; that can be translated to the architectural references she uses (moldings, ziggurats, columns) as much to what she depicts (the human hand, a cup, an octopus). All of these are automatically carried from this version of history to that version of history, shedding concrete references with each step. The octopus reminds us that mythology is the close cousin of any well-researched antiquity-art, or otherwise. The unique accomplishment of Vieira’s exhibition is the privileged point of acces it offers the viewer: one that ricochets between centuries, from the fall of one empire to another and another; historical anomalies to suggest an incomplete oeuvre.

Allyson Vieira lives and works in New York. Her work has been included in recent group exhibitions at Brown Gallery in London, AMP in Athens, and Laurel Gitlen, Rental and Deitch Projects in New York. She received an MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School at Bard College and a BFA from the Cooper Union. Her work was also included in an upcoming exhibition at SculptureCenter.