27 September - 15 November 2001
Stephan Balkenhol was born in Fritzlar (Hessen) in Germany in 1957 and, for some fifteen years, has been breathing new life into figurative sculpture with extremely intense and original works. He sculpts his figures of women, men, and animals very exactly from a single trunk of wood which he then paints. Despite his use of this traditional technique, his figures are not in the least heroic or expressionist. With calm and irony he shows the man of our time, a figure Balkenhol observes and records in the many photos he takes walking along the streets.
Balkenhol's sculptures add the essentiality of minimalism to the communicative and sensual sculpted figure, uniting two diametrically opposed trends in contemporary art. In this he resembles such conceptual photographers as Thomas Ruff and Jeff Wall.
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'. Since 1984 he has shown regularly in galleries and museums,
among which figure the Basel Kunsthalle, 1988; the Hamburg Kunsthalle, 1991; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 1991; the Witt de With Centre for the Arts, 1992; the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Rochechouart, France, and the Nationalgalerie of Berlin, 1994; the Hirshhorn Museum of Washington, 1995; the Galleria Civica of Trento, 1999, and the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea of Santiago di Compostela, 2001. He has also been asked to create some exciting open-air projects, such as for the show Doubletake, held in London in 1992, where Balkenhol installed an enormous wooden head on a bridge over the Thames, or in Hamburg in 1993 where he placed four male figures on the same number of mooring buoys.