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Haim Steinbach appear to use

This catalogue was created on the occasion of appear to use, Haim Steinbach’s solo exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles on view from March 16 through May 18 2019. For more than four decades, Haim Steinbach has explored the psychological, aesthetic, cultural and ritualistic aspects of collecting and arranging already existing objects. His work engages the concept of “display” as a form that foregrounds objects, raising consciousness of the play of presentation. Steinbach selects and arranges objects – which range from the natural to the ordinary, the artistic to the ethnographic – thereby emphasizing their identities, inherent meanings and associations. An important influence in the growth of post-modern artistic dialogue, Steinbach’s work has radically redefined the status of the object in art. For his first exhibition in Los Angeles in over 10 years, Steinbach transforms the gallery’s exhibition space and presents a new body of work including installation, shelf arrangements, wall texts and paintings. In addition to the gallery exhibition, this catalogue also includes a selection of Steinbach’s recent institutional exhibitions, and features a selection of historical works pertinent to his practice.

Front and Back Cover: Installation view, appear to use, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, 2019, Photo: Jeff Mclane


appear to use Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, March 16 — May 18, 2019

Museum exhibitions every single day Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Kleve, Germany 2018 (solo)

Zerubbabel Magasin III, Jaffa, Israel, 2018 (solo)

Installation view, appear to use, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, 2019, Photo: Jeff Mclane

appear to use

Since the 1970s Haim Steinbach has

The artist’s ongoing exploration of

developed a widely influential practice

language, color and narrative is highlighted

that redefines structures of presentation

in the relationship between Untitled

and investigates the relationship between

(Pantone 17-5641) which features a tin box

object and art, culture and language, and

supporting a green rectangle, and Display

collection and display. With nods to the

#95—the band if it is white and black the

tradition of Duchamp and the conceptual

band has a green string which includes

logic of Minimalism, Steinbach’s work

the quote from Gertrude Stein’s “Tender

redefines the status of the object in art.

Buttons.” The quote is integrated into a wall, an architectural construct. It faces the

In this new exhibition Steinbach builds a

tin box that sits in a handcrafted wooden

site-specific architecture, reconstructing


the gallery’s space. Using exposed building materials, such as free-standing

In an adjacent gallery space, the work

stud walls and plasterboard, the artist

Display #96—boom box consists of a

invites the viewer to rethink the ways

text partially hidden behind an exposed

in which architecture influences our

aluminum and plasterboard wall. The

understanding of object, context, surface,

subject of the text alludes to previous

the human body, and the relationships

elements in Steinbach’s oeuvre—

forged between them. Steinbach utilizes

namely the use of found objects that are

these materials as both language and

embedded in our collective consciences

form, engendering an experience where

and cultural experiences. Display #96—

the viewer is invited to navigate the

boom box offers itself as a thread that

space; raising an awareness to how the

weaves a conceptual tie between past

body functions in its surroundings, while

works and the new shelf arrangements

exploring rhythm, repetition and seriality.

displayed in the main gallery space.

Central to this exhibition is a new group

Holding a wall of the back gallery is

of shelves that present the innovative

an expansive wall painting consisting

use of smart speaker devices as part of

of the color orange along with the

the sculptural arrangement. The virtual

line mypoemisfinishedandIhavent

assistance device — a functional object

mentionedorangeyet from the poem “Why

that is detached from its original context,

I Am Not a Painter” by Frank O’Hara. Here,

yet maintains its functionality — generates

Steinbach challenges our perception of

a new, non-linear, narrative; a vocabulary

architecture in the relationship between

that needs to be identified in terms

language, color and cultural structures,

of looking, assessing, observing and

encompassing the core themes of the



Steinbach has been incorporating electronic devices, such as digital clocks and tape recorders, into his shelf works since the 1980s. These commonplace objects, with their ability to transmit information, can be seen as predecessors to the smart speakers presented in his latest body of work. By utilizing the smart speaker—a new, technology of today, Steinbach takes his decades-long investigation to a new level and elicits piercing questions about the psychological and cultural context of the object.

Untitled (dog chew, hat molds) 2019 Plastic laminated wood shelf; rubber dog chew; 2 wooden hat molds 23 x 43 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches; 58.4 x 110.5 x 36.8 cm

Throughout his influential practice, Haim Steinbach has engaged concepts of presentation and display, and questioned the nature of the object in its social and cultural context. His shelf arrangements, which have become iconic in the history of art, reveal the artist’s distinct sculptural vocabulary. Here, everyday objects are removed from their original context and placed atop handcrafted wooden shelves, to create a sculptural ensemble. These works draw upon our human desire to craft relationships, create stories and compose allegories among objects. In exploring the ritual of collecting, arranging and presenting objects, Steinbach’s work points to the psychological and aesthetic context of the object. In his latest body of work, Steinbach introduces an innovative use of smart speaker devices into the sculptural arrangement. The virtual assistance device, which can be activated by the viewer’s voice, adds an additional dimension to Steinbach’s shelves and represents another development in his artistic inquiry. The role and diversity of materials within the artwork are underscored. By speculating that ordinary objects may be raised to the level of art, the artist explores the social rituals of collection and arrangement, and reminds viewers that display is a manifestation of visual communication.

Untitled (siri, kongs, antenna) presents important elements that have appeared in Steinbach’s work throughout his career. In this new shelf arrangement a Siri smart speaker, a rubber dog chew, and an indoor television antenna demonstrates a complex relationship of materials and contexts. In placing the smart speaker— a state of the art technology of today— in dialogue with the home television antenna, the artist raises questions of functionality, materiality, form, and representation. The tension between the objects and their materials, creates an almost magnetic dynamic that cuts across questions of space, function and context.

Untitled (siri, kongs, antenna) 2019 Plastic laminated wood shelf; Apple smart speaker; rubber dog chew; indoor television antenna 53 x 58 1/2 x 12 inches; 134.6 x 148 x 30.5 cm

Installation view, appear to use, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, 2019, Photo: Jeff Mclane

Steinbach’s single objects presented in pristine, hand-crafted boxes have become another iconic form in the artist’s sculptural vocabulary. For over 20 years, the artist has developed this series that presents an object, unadulterated and isolated, yet framed in a way that allows the viewer to consider the ambiguity of one object’s meaning. This re-contextualization touches on our aspirations and values in relation to the objects of our modern world.

Untitled (Pantone 17-5641) 2016 Baltic birch plywood, plastic laminate and glass box; metal Pantone storage box 41 3/8 x 39 3/8 x 17 1/2 inches; 105.1 x 100 x 44.5 cm

Installation view, appear to use, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, 2019, Photo: Jeff Mclane

Haim Steinbach’s work with language

moves the words toward new identifications

proposes that reading is an act of seeing,

and associations. Just as Steinbach’s shelving

and even if this is not always, strictly speaking

of objects reminds viewers that display is

the case, the graphic codes which proliferate

an ideological enterprise, his wall paintings

on our current media culture accustom us to

of vernacular text serve also to play with

word and image arriving in the same package.

established codes of interpreting what is seen.

Steinbach is interested in the vernacular

Language in Steinbach’s work is both stable

“saying”, the sort of speech that strikes us as

(the typeface remains the same, the words

both direct and shared, both common and

are verbatim) and flexible (the type size of the

readily understood. The promise of vernacular-

words changes according to the context of the

in slogans, catch phrases, ad copy, figures of

display, and the words now refer to something

speech makes communication seem effortless.

else in addition to what they “used to mean”).

Words become memorable, easy to repeat. If language here hits its target, it is because

In his language works, when Steinbach

the vernacular “saying” is an expression of

conserves a phrase in his collection, it is an

readerly consensus or fluency on matters of

act of memory, of preserving a relation of

social relations as well as about particular

language and community, thus his insistence

cultural meanings. Steinbach queries this

on duplicating the typeface, the original look of

consensus, because for him, what we think

the words. The work is a mediation of readily

we know about what we see, speaks to our

available, short hand forms of speech of

understanding and misunderstanding of

today’s mass media world. By the beginning

our place in the world, and about our levels

of the 21st century the vernacular of the

of contentment and discontent within these

“saying” has expanded into new territories

relations and meanings.

of communication. “Sayings” as an image of the printed word are employed as agents

Steinbach is a veteran collector of “objectified”

of desire, baits, callings, devices for getting

short statements. When he comes across a

attention and temptation ploys. What Steinbach

colloquialism, a title, or a slogan that strikes

does with this found relation by rearranging

him as intriguing or relevant to his work, he

it visually and conceptually (as image and

clips the text, conserving both the words and

referent) invites viewers to re-identify with the

typeface, which is their visual presentation. By

language before them. The challenge to the

turning vernacular phrases into a wall painting,

viewer is what to make of it.

drawing or print, Steinbach subverts the original context of the language he’s found and

Recent Museu

um Exhibitions

For his solo exhibition every single day at Kurhaus Kleve, Steinbach focused on the idea of color and its relationship to surrounding space (color in the object, as object and in space). Since the early 1970s, Steinbach has been interested in the subject of color, especially as related to the movements of color field painting and minimalism. The focus of his research is a contemporary exploration of the instruments of modernity, in particular color, form, and raster, which were first systematically investigated by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Steinbach transforms these elements into a mobile construction (set in motion by the observer) and questions the means of presentation as well as the viewpoint of the observer.

This Page and Previous Page: Installation view, every single day, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Kleve, Germany. 2018

Installation view, every single day, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Kleve, Germany. 2018

Zerubbabel by Haim Steinbach was the inaugural show at Magasin III, Jaffa, Israel. Curated by David Neuman, the show included ten works by Steinbach from the last 5 years. The works ranged from wall paintings, which focus on the essence of text, imagery and color, to objects presented in his architecturally defined boxes. Upon entering the gallery from Olei Zion, visitors were greeted by Steinbach’s large-scale pantonecoolgray10 (2016) and smaller tuttifrutti (2016), both wall paintings designed in vinyl decal and acrylic paint. Pantone is a company best known for its innovative system for identifying, matching and communicating colors, while “Tutti Frutti” may refer to the Israeli popsicle or the Little Richard song. The context of a work is important to Steinbach, and in his wall paintings he uses the architecture to duplicate the space, heightening our perception of it spatially. Beside pantonecoolgray10, four handcrafted wood and glass boxes were shown alongside one other, each displaying a different tin container produced by Pantone. In these works, Steinbach explores our understanding of colors, through structures and framing devices for their presentation. His Untitled (bocce ball), (2013), a wooden bocce ball presented within a box on an adjacent wall, is an object of a game. On another wall of the gallery was thelionking (2016), an extensive vinyl decal superimposed on an expanse of yellow ochre acrylic paint that depicts the silhouette of a lion’s head from the popular musical of the same name.

Installation view, Zerubbabel , Magasin III, Jaffa, Israel, 2018. Photo: Yuval Hai

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