Since the late 1970s, New York-based artist Haim Steinbach’s three-dimensional work has involved the display of preexisting things. As in fresh, his 1989 work in the permanent collection consisting of two bottle racks and two shovels presented on a custom-made red Formica shelf, he painstakingly arranges household items, toys, and other everyday items on support surfaces of his own invention. This exhibition presents a broad range of familiar, new, and rarely seen three- and two-dimensional works of art from the museum’s collection along with other materials from the around the museum in groupings conceived by Steinbach.
fresh is an oblique homage to artist Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), who famously divorced bottle racks, shovels, and other commonplace objects from their conventional contexts in his proto-conceptual sculptures called readymades, which elevate commonplace things to the realm of fine art through the artist’s intention. The exhibition title is a reference to a punning sculpture by Duchamp in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fresh Widow, 1920, a miniature french window with blacked-out panes. Working closely with the Menil’s curators, conservators, and exhibition designers, Steinbach contributes his ideas and presentation strategies—playful and profound—to an exhibition that expands in new ways on a central tenet of the Menil’s philosophy: the idea that works of art from different times and places can spark new connections.
In addition to Steinbach, the exhibition includes works by such artists as Sol LeWitt, Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, Diego Giacometti, René Magritte, and the self-taught artist Hawkins Bolden. It also features examples from the Menil’s extensive collections of historical frames, Americana, and objects used in its loading dock and curatorial offices.
This exhibition is generously supported by Chinhui and Eddie Allen; Franci and Jim Crane; Diana and Russell Hawkins; Scott and Judy Nyquist and the City of Houston.
Photos: Paul Hester