artist / participant
every single day May 18–September 15, 2019
“The quotations in my works are like robbers lying in ambush on the highway to attack the passerby with weapons drawn and rob him of his conviction.” –Walter Benjamin, “One-Way Street,” 1928
Museion is pleased to present an exhibition by Haim Steinbach (*1944, Rehovot, Israel), one of the most influential contemporary artists, whose work is to be seen in a museum in Italy for the first time in over 20 years. The exhibition is a survey of selected works from the last thirty years, bringing together shelf works, containers, text pieces, wall paintings and large-scale installations.
Since the mid-1970s Steinbach’s practice has been focused on the transient status of the object and its meaning in art and everyday life. His art works became well known in the mid-1980s with objects that he selected and arranged on shelves. By displacing them from their standard place of function or object affinity, and placing them in company of others, context and function take on unpredictable identities. The sneakers, teapots, soaps and Jason Voorhees mask from the movie Friday the 13th can be compared to the robbers, who steal the viewer’s conventional convictions, in the above quote by Walter Benjamin.
In his exhibition at Museion, Haim Steinbach focuses on the staging of the museum itself. By using functional museum equipment and turning its intended application on itself, he applies the same gesture of displacement as he does with his objects. Moveable Wolfsburg Walls used by Museion for its exhibitions are now stripped bare or they may be partly covered with plasterboard that supports text or colour. These coloured plasterboards relate to the history of naming and colour coding. Literature is another important point of reference for Haim Steinbach. The wall-painting in the foyer on the ground floor of Museion, which was reformatted specifically for the show in Bolzano, presents, in fact, a line fragment from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that the poet wrote in 1897 whilst staying in the area, namely at Schloss Englar (Appiano/Eppan).
Around 1977, Haim Steinbach began to consider the idea of the “display.” It is a presentation, in the sense of putting things on display in the museum or it may be something we do at home, when arranging family pictures on the counter. An early such work, Display #7, 1979 was shown at Artist Space in New York. The artist asked friends and family to give objects that he arranged on shelves mounted on the wall against wide strips of wallpaper patterns of different cultural origins.
By 1984, Steinbach conceived of the basic triangular wedge shelf that consisted of three angles: 40°, 50°, and 90°. This structure remained constant in many works that followed. The shelf was sectioned into parts that varied in size depending on the objects placed on them. In that respect, the shelf became a device like a measuring tape or a scale.
For Steinbach, colours are objects. The Dulux paint company in Great Britain named a certain brown “Starbucks Roast.” Steinbach took that colour, made it into a wall painting and appropriated the title starbucksroast. It is in this respect that he considers both title and colour to be a found object.
Vernacular sayings and titles traverse across the linguistic meanings of words. In print they take on characters known as typefaces. Haim Steinbach collects text statement that have been set to type and that appear in print. He transfers them to paper or a wall precisely as they were found. The poetics of the text in the field of typography is its architecture.
Curated by Susanne Figner, Letizia Ragaglia.
The solo exhibition by Haim Steinbach at Museion is a co-production with the Museum Kurhaus Kleve.
A catalogue including a text by David Joselit, a conversation with Isabelle Graw and contributions by the curators and directors will be published in conjunction with the exhibition. The chapter “The Melancholy Angel” from Giorgio Agamben’s book The Man Without Content will be included in the catalogue.