Magazine article Artforum International

Stephan Balkenhol

Magazine article Artforum International

Stephan Balkenhol

Article excerpt

Stephan Balkenhol's recent exhibition consisted of 12 small female nudes carved from a single block of wawa wood. The figure and pedestal are all of a piece, and seem to be worked from inside the wood--a technique that recalls his 57 penguins from 1991. Additionally, there are two round pictures, two drawings, and a "headless man" that are the same size as the nudes but in which the figures are fully clothed. (The headless man may be a reference to Dionysus of Paris, the third-century French martyr, who came to Paris from Rome and walked to St. Denis with his head in his hand after being decapitated.) Together with three additional life-size female nudes, these works offer a comprehensive view into Balkenhol's world.

This world is varied, but somehow so closed off that one can speak of a family resemblance among the different sculptures. It is not direct commonalities so much as related characteristics that recur; for example, Balkenhol's use of very small male and female figures: the emphasis and development of body, figure, face, head. The work leaves us with an impression of physical and spiritual loneliness and the sense that these human figures have a soul, lending them a higher purpose. …

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