Critics’ Picks

Haim Steinbach, Untitled (cookie jar, Jamaican head, Stormtrooper, dog chew), 2016, mixed media, 26 1/2 x 55 7/10 x 13 1/2".


Haim Steinbach

Galerie Hubert Winter
Breite Gasse 17
April 5–June 2

Mojave, vitamin kick, tree frog 1, garden gnome, sunflower. For eswürdesoaussehen (itwouldlooklikethis), 2018—which consists of fictive names and thirteen color swatches painted on the wall—Haim Steinbach portrays not only the hues of everyday objects but also the ideas and representations connected to them.

This exhibition hosts plenty of actual objects, too—they’re motley and freighted with cultural significance, and Steinbach has been amassing them for a good three decades. That they exist not to sate the artist’s pack-rat passions but rather to serve the analysis of their own implications in terms of form, content, and society is intensified by the staging of the objects in the exhibition space. What do a Darth Vader cookie jar, a hand-carved wooden statue from Jamaica, a lunchbox in the form of a Stormtrooper, and a dog’s rubber bone have to do with one another? At first glance, absolutely nothing; at every further glance, a further explanation, depending on who is looking at the arrangement and the background that person brings to it.

Untitled (cookie jar, Jamaican head, Stormtrooper, dog chew), 2016, is shown beside a decaled large-format portrait of the Lion King, a metal can in Pantone color 18-2120 neatly displayed in a vitrine, and, adhered to a wall, the logo of “Playboy of the West Indies,” from the book cover of the same title by Mustapha Matura—a few among numerous appropriations. Steinbach adopts foreign objects as his own, borrowing their meaning in order to generate new insights through recombination. In doing so, he offers no definite read, instead entrusting the process of deciphering to the observer. It is this interpretive openness in which the works’ power resides.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.