Stephan Balkenhol

Stephan Balkenhol—known for his Minimalist and Conceptualist profile—’s first figures appeared in 1983. His early sculptures were conceived as a reaction to some artistic practices that celebrated either abstract formalism or sheer ideas, and also in response to the artist’s interest in reintroducing the image of the human body in contemporary art. They consisted of single male or female nudes attached to pedestals, echoing the tradition of classical Egyptian, Roman, and Greek statues. From the mid-1980s to the present, Balkenhol continued to depict the human figure, but now as ordinary looking men or women in simple clothing. In addition, during the early 1990s, he began to make animal figures alone or in combination with humans, as well as their hybrids. It is through these works, all carved out of wood, that Balkenhol established himself as an internationally reknown artist. Balkenhol’s sculptures of commonplace people are not narrative in any explicit way, but are rather suggestive of a certain story, which, with its recognizable characters or situations, seems at once familiar and strange. To put it in Balkenhol’s own words: “I’m perhaps proposing a story and not telling the end, just giving a beginning or fragment. There is still a lot for the spectator to complete…”. Balkenhol was born in 1957 in Fritzlar, Hesse, Germany, and studied art at the Hamburg School of Fine Arts (1976—82) Balkenhol lives and works in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Meisenthal, France. He has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States, including at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.C. (1995), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Saatchi Collection in London (1996), and the Arts Club of Chicago (1998), among many other museums and galleries.