Critics’ Picks

Untitled, 2005.

Untitled, 2005.

Basel

Erik Steinbrecher

Galerie Stampa
Spalenberg 2
March 1–April 30, 2005

Erik Steinbrecher’s new works look like a lot of things, but not necessarily like sculptures. Leaning on or hanging from the gallery walls like amorphous sacs, or curling up- or downward like curved twigs, his strange objects arouse a variety of associations—phallic ones, most obviously. Beyond that, they prompt a range of questions, such as: What exactly are these things? What are they made of? Are they hard or soft, heavy or light, rigid or elastic? Indeed, what appears to be soft fabric or foam is in fact hard cast resin, while the slightly disturbing, longish, black leather . . . things, which recall gigantic truncheons, are made of soft rubber. “Politic or Porno,” the title of Steinbrecher’s previous show and artist’s book, best describes what is going on here. Steinbrecher—who initially became known for his collections of loosely associative photographs that subtly and humorously depict odd architectural or cultural phenomena—offers a load of possibilities, but no solutions. His slippery hybrids are made to confuse us rather than to satisfy us—witness, for example, the gigantic white bench entitled Volksbank, 2005. The title—a pun meaning both “bank of the people” and “bench of the people”—lends a slightly absurd connotation to the name of one of Germany’s biggest financial institutions.