First major Russian show to span Stephan Balkenhol's entire career on view in Moscow

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First major Russian show to span Stephan Balkenhol's entire career on view in Moscow
Stephan Balkenhol, Icon, 2014. Ayous wood, coloured and gold leaf, 140 × 100 cm. Photo: Jussi Tiainen.

MOSCOW.- Moscow Museum of Modern Art is presenting a solo exhibition of the world famous sculptor Stephan Balkenhol (b. 1957) — the first major Russian show to span the artist’s entire career.

For over three decades Stephan Balkenhol has been among the most acclaimed contemporary sculptors in the world. His works are in public and private collections in Frankfurt, Bremen, Karlsruhe, Hamburg, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Johannesburg, The Hague, New York and Chicago among other cities. Sculptures and Reliefs features the artist’s sketches, as well as many of his complete works.

Continuing the European tradition of the wooden sculpture that dates back to the Middle Ages, Stephan Balkenhol carves his sculptures from a wide range of woods including wawa, cedar and fir, without any assistance. His human figures are never polished to waxy smoothness and artifice: like humans they would not be themselves without imperfections. the rough surfaces and cuts create a sense of a life force hidden inside the figures of seemingly apathetic humans — an evidence of the artist’s love of and faith in humanity.

Balkenhol is not a storyteller; he objectively portrays most ordinary people and animals. in whatever circumstances they find themselves, his simple figures in ordinary clothes do not show any emotions. Balkenhol’s characters are strangers who are vaguely similar to each one of us, and at the same time, very much distanced from the viewer. The artist deliberately avoids complicated descriptions and clever connotations in the titles of his works: instead, they reaffirm the absolute ‘normality’ of his characters deprived of social class or personal characteristics.

Any interpretations of his works are crushed by the silent presence of his roughly carved figures. the question they seem to pose is whether we can still see a human behind the alienation and spectacle of contemporary life? In which intermediate dimension will a person who has for a moment stopped acting find her/himself?

The artist and the curator of the exhibition Matthias Winzen have adapted this major exhibition to the local context and the exhibition space.

Sculptures and Reliefs continues a series of exhibitions exploring German contemporary art. Moscow Museum of Modern art has previously hosted the exhibition The Paths of German Art from 1949 till the Present Day (2014), and a retrospective exhibition of Joseph Beuys Appeal for an Alternative (2012).
a catalogue of the exhibition in Russian and in English features essays by Georgy Nikich and Matthias Winzen, as well as an interview with the artist.

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