Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steinbach: Enigma or Memory Keeper?

On view until October 22nd is Haim Steinbach’s Creature at Tanya Bonakdar. The work varies a lot, showing familiar Steinbach themes and also new explorations with text, patterns on the wall, and singular objects. The first gallery room shows typical Steinbach- random chotchkies on beautifully constructed simple wood triangular shelves. The next rooms featured large black vinyl text put onto two walls (No Elephants and and to think it all started with a mouse), while the other two walls have shallow wooden frames with painted bronze Degas statuettes inside of dancers. Upstairs shows use of entire walls, one with a floral pattern, one with a squiggly absent-minded pattern, and another again with text, reading, “you don’t get it, do you?” These walls are set up at odd angles to each other, making the viewer squeeze by them until they find themselves in this odd shaped room, only to read the statement that Steinbach suspects we don’t understand. Honestly, I’m not quite sure that I do. Although I appreciate any artist who tries to delve into new territory, I did love the first gallery with the objects thrown together on shelves. They are at once personally familiar and inaccessible. The objects, so beautifully presented on the shelves, appear to obviously go together; the viewer feels a memory or story from their own past from these objects. But at the same time, the meaning is inaccessible to us because we can never know why Steinbach chose these objects, and what their pairings might mean to him, because the pairings are so random. Here is where an interesting question emerges: as viewers of art, should we focus more on what the work may mean only to us, or what meaning the artist intended? In the case of Steinbach, his playful nature seems to suggest that our minds should wander, coming to our own conclusions.


  1. Picture of my favorite piece, Western Hills.

  2. As soon as I read your review title, I started wondering what you would say about this show! I found Steinbach collection includes interesting playful objects but I totally agree with you I didn’t get it either.

    Your writing is clear but to grab your reader attention especially while you are describing the exhibition space I would recommend rewriting that part to make it sound more interesting. I feel you can go more into details by adding your favorite piece and explain why you liked it? Finally there are some unclear sentences. For example, “Although I appreciate any artist who tries to delve into new territory, I did love the first gallery with the objects thrown together on shelves” I think you should rework it into two sentences and try avoiding phrases like “I love”. Other than that, I think you did a good job.

  3. There is some analysis out there that suggests that the wall text you mention, And to think it all started with a mouse, references Disney and the Mickey Mouse character. So perhaps Memory Keeper?