2 October – 16 November 2013
White Cube Mason’s Yard presented an exhibition of new works by Haim Steinbach, his first with the gallery. Steinbach is interested in the shared social ritual of collecting, arranging and presenting everyday objects and materials, an experience that on a basic level extends to us all, whether it’s through the way we arrange our homes or the way we select and wear our clothes. This exhibition was comprised of two new series of works that continue that enquiry and trace a trajectory in the artist’s practice that stretches from the 1970s to today. In 1976, Steinbach produced a series of works based on grid-like geometric patterns created with strips of linoleum flooring. The Linopanel works marked a pivotal moment in Steinbach’s career when he abandoned his investigation into minimalist painting and began to work with found objects. His use of linoleum, an everyday material that imitates more valuable floor covering, such as marble and tile, complicates the purist dictates of minimalism and introduces a domestic and social referent that was to become important to his subsequent work. For this exhibition, Steinbach re-created the Linopanel works for the first time since the 1970s.
Steinbach’s 1979 exhibition ‘Display # 7’ at Artists Space in New York introduced architecture as a primary focus in the conception of his work. The artist has said that ‘with architecture we enter the realm of objects and language’. Freestanding metal stud walls with drywall and wallpaper panels partitioned the gallery spaces at White Cube, Mason’s Yard. By reconfiguring space in this way, Steinbach asks us to reorient our relationship to a built environment that we usually overlook. Here, architecture advances into the foreground, reminding us that it is made up of culturally resonant materials and surfaces.
An interest in collecting and the methodologies of display forms the basis of a second suite of works in the exhibition, a series of boxes made from wood as well as a fiberglass and aluminum material used in the aviation industry. Steinbach uses these boxes as a device to underscore seemingly ordinary objects, allowing us to consider their aesthetic, social, and psychological evocations without prejudice or presumption. We have feelings about objects, which are often complicated and intense. We project onto them and communicate through them. They provoke a variety of possible cultural or psychic associations leading to an infinite chain of meanings. In this exhibition, the artist put into play a number of objects and materials that evoked ideas about travel. This subject is here understood not only in terms of the movement of people from one place to another, but as a set of shifting interrelations between people and objects as they move through various contexts and fields of signification. For Steinbach, objects are relatively unfixed and dynamic entities. They ‘perform’ and take on various roles according to how they are positioned in the world. In this sense, one could say that an object does not only represent the notion of travel, but is itself actively on the move.