Critics’ Picks

Untitled, 2008, polystyrene packing peanuts, polyurethane glue, polethylene hose, and trash bags, 27 x 30 x 21".

Untitled, 2008, polystyrene packing peanuts, polyurethane glue, polethylene hose, and trash bags, 27 x 30 x 21".

Washington, DC

Dan Steinhilber

G Fine Art
1350 Florida Avenue NE
March 15–April 26, 2008

Dan Steinhilber, one of the younger leaders of the Washington, DC, art scene, is still best known for agglomerative sculpture made from mass-produced objects, recalling work by Tara Donovan—or even Man Ray’s coat-hanger mobile from 1920. Steinhilber’s new show at G Fine Art sees him moving on. His materials haven’t changed; black garbage bags, packing peanuts, and bare fluorescent tubes find their way into the gallery. But his new works feel less modernist and formal.

To make a grouping of six nearly figurative sculptures, Steinhilber filled huge black bags with glue-covered peanuts, sucked all the air out with a vacuum hose, then hugged and grappled with each stiffening bag until the glue had set. The result is a series of nubbly black forms that have the positive presence of bodies, however tortured and partial, but simultaneously record the negative space around the artist-wrestler’s form. They recall half-melted sculptures by Antony Gormley or the writhing figures recovered from Pompeii.

In the gallery’s darkened project space, Steinhilber presents his work with fluorescents, which he has left so underpowered that they give off just the barest glimmer of flickering light. Grouped in casual bundles or lined up on the wall, the tubes seem barely alive. Some of Steinhilber’s earlier works ran the risk of excess cheeriness: Their grand accumulation inevitably gave them a festive feel. The new pieces have qualms about consumption and industrial manufacturing.