Kenneth Steinbach, whose work can currently be seen at the Circa Gallery, utilizes found objects to great effect, discovering their qualities and re-purposing them in fascinating ways. His pieces tend to have a political point of view, though he's not so much a proselytizing as subtly questioning through the objects themselves.
Work by Kenneth Steinbach
Take, for instance, a series of works that are made from discarded ivory piano keys. Grouped together and then scrimshawed, a process that involves engraving the surface of the ivory with a stylus and then rubbing pigment into the incised lines, the pieces almost look like drawings with how the lines flow. Beautiful and detailed, these works show the subtle shifts of tone between each ivory key, giving weight to the material itself while also serving as a medium for the drawings.
Steinbach's use of recycled ivory is rather daring. On the one hand, the sale of ivory is banned or severely restricted in many countries due to the fact that elephants are endangered. On the other hand, Steinbach is salvaging precious material that has been used and discarded. The work both celebrates ivory for reasons people have coveted it for hundreds of years -- for it's luminosity and elegance -- and at the same time points to how easily such a precious resource can become worthless.
Another series of work is made from layers plastic material, where drawings from overhead of people walking are seen immersed inside the layers. The figures appear to be swimming in water. Some are blurry, while other people almost disappear. Here, Steinbach suggests the delicate connection we have with one another.
Work by Kenneth Steinbach
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a large, sculptural work, titled Under the Rose, made out of muslin with thousands of laser-cut patterned holes. The piece is meant to assume the shape of a predator drone. Indeed, it has the basic shape, but instead of clean, crisp lines, the muslin lilts and droops, creating a more feminine form, particularly with the pattern of the laser-cut lines, which gives the piece a domestic quality.
Under the Rose most certainly is a political work, but Steinbach doesn't hit us over the head with a hammer. Rather, it's a much more passive statement, suggesting a different way of thinking about war and of enemies. His piece has a similar impact that a yarn-bombed missile would. Let's stop, he suggests, and think about the families, the cultures, and the communities that are affected by violence before we send another drone.
Kenneth Steinbach Solo Exhibition
210 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612.332.2386
Through November 3
There will be an artist's dialogue at 5 p.m. Saturday, October 5
Gallery hours are 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Under the Rose by Kenneth Steinbach