Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Stephan Balkenhol

Kleine Säulenfigur (female), 1997

Paint on wawa

59 x 10 x 13 1/2 in. (148.1 x 25.1 x 33.9 cm)

Gift of Nancy Lauter McDougal and Alfred L. McDougal.

Stephen Balkenhol’s method of carving his figures from one solid block of wood. The casual posture of the figure, combined with the artist’s trademark of gouging rough marks throughout the surface of the wood, gives his sculpture rugged strength and a reserved formality. As seen in Kleine Säulenfigur (female), Balkenhol presents his figures with ordinary characteristics and, as if commenting on the generic existence of the “common man,” dressing them in modest clothes, molding them into ordinary postures, and giving them stoic facial expressions. At the same time, his sculptures can be read as celebrations of everyman, whereby he may create for the viewer an uncanny sense of self-recognition and familiarity.