New York

Michael Steiner

Dwan Gallery

Debuts by young artists these days seem to fall into one of two categories. Either their exhibitions are somewhat insecure technically, and uncertain conceptually, or they are almost alarmingly with it, apparently leaving no fields left to conquer. Michael Steiner’s opening at Dwan lines up neatly with the latter extremity. Flawless even in their installation, his cast aluminum pieces project a structural confidence, and a differentiated geometrical vocabulary of mostly cantilevered or buttressed beams that go elegantly about their business. In addition, nothing could be more up to date than the Bob Morris grey, the Tony Smith monumentality, and the Donald Judd repeated modules that have all been incorporated effortlessly in this display. Steiner even gives the impression of being more inventive than his sources. Here is surely the critical issue posed by such work. It lies not so much in the eclecticism of its various elements––which is not a comment one way or the other on artistic accomplishment––but on the logic and the largeness of the eclectic mode itself. It strikes a viewer immediately that these Steiner works want to ingratiate themselves. Their almost linear lightness, their interestingly squeezed or bracketed spaces, their anthropomorphic references to elbows or phallic associations: all these are agents that have relaxed the Morris-Judd esthetic. But have relaxed it for ends, I think, that have vitiated the coherence of their “minimal” format. Steiner is not boring, but he has employed a genre that comments on boredom, softening and even sacrificing its probity, rather than, in the end, extending it.

––Max Kozloff

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