Stephan Balkenhol

Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

There’s no divorcing the figure from the base in Stephan Balkenhol’s sculptures. If these ordinary guys, his most frequent subjects, were plunked directly on the floor, they would disappear in the crowd. As it is, they acquire a quirky prestige by virtue of their elevation, hefted up on stacks of thick spools or sidled onto flatbeds perched on wooden sawhorses, slouched in single file as if walk the plank.

Balkenhol is entangling us in the skeins of sculpture’s history, and maybe in politics as well. As Brancusi moved from Romania to France, he refined and reduced his portraits of birds and humans to impeccably smooth, compact abstractions. His bases became compilations of hacked and stacked blocks, intended to energize the idealized effigies they bore aloft. Balkenhol’s supports bear this same reverence—the elevation of the objects that stride them, their meaning and forms exchanging

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