Mann und Frau. 1983. Wooden sculpture. Copper beech, partly with colors. Height: each ca. 202 cm (79.5 in).
This pair of figures are the first full-figure wooden sculptures that Balkenhol executed in his characteristic coarse style. "I regard ´Mann und Frau` as a key work in which I attain virginity and nativity in a positive sense; a freshness impossible to realize again ever after." (Stephan Balkenhol, 2017).
EXHIBITION: Impulse I, Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach 15 May - 22 June 1983. Stephan Balkenhol. Skulpturen und Zeichnungen, Kunstverein Brunswick 6 February - 15 March 1987, with illu on pp. 60 and 61. Neue Kunst in Hamburg 1987. Stephan Balkenhol, Hella Berent, Werner Büttner, Andreas Coerper, Markus Oehlen, exhibition at Halle K3, Hamburg 6 February - 8 March 1987, with illu. on pp. 12 and 13. Stephan Balkenhol, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden 15 July - 17 September 2006; Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg 28 September 2006 - 28 January 2007; Museum der Moderne Salzburg 17 February - 24 June 2007, p. 207, with illu. 5a and 5b and full-page illu. on pp. 58 and 59.
LITERATURE: Neal Benezra, Stephan Balkenhol. Sculptures and Drawings, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Smithonian Institution, Washington D.C., Stuttgart 1995, p. 28 with illu. 8 (woman) and p. 73.
Since 1982 the human figure, created right from the wooden block, has been at the core of the art of Stephan Balkenhol, the greatest wood sculptor of our time. After the two-piece work “Kopf Mann und Frau“ from 1982, today in the collection Ludwig in Aachen, Balkenhol made his first wooden full-figure sculpture with the couple “Mann und Frau“ from 1983 offered here. With traditional tools Balkenhol cuts the figures directly out of the wood, which he treats as a living substance. The traces the fabrication leaves behind - grooves, fissure, splinters and cracks – remain visible and document the sculptor's work process. The figures' surface structures show their origin from the tree trunk. The wooden flesh tint is only colored in select parts in order to accentuate the body contour. The figures' portrait appeal is deceiving, as Stephan Balkenhol does not strive to create portraits or any form of concrete type. His aim is to liberate the figurative sculpture from any political, religious and allegoric meaning. Accordingly, the overhasty interpretation of this early full-figure couple as “Adam and Eve“ turns out to be erroneous.Balkenhol's figures are archetypical concepts of man and woman, owed to their nudity they cannot be allocated to any social or temporal definition. Without any interaction between them, their monumental physical presence is undisturbed by expressive gestures or facial expressions. Balkenhol realized what seemed impossible with his first figure couple: with the traditional wood sculpting technique he attained a very own and unmistakable imagery that liberates the classic theme of the human body and takes it to Modernism. [JS]