For most people a hanger is simply an object that can assist in wardrobe organization and wrinkle prevention. For Washington, D.C. based artist Dan Steinhilber, however, the hanger inspires contemplation: What is the essence of a hanger? How do hangers interact with each other? How can man-made hangers be manipulated to reflect natural phenomena?
Visitors to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art
are able to see the results of Steinhilber’s metaphysical musings about hangers and many other common household items in a new contemporary art exhibition titled “Dan Steinhilber,” on view through June 6, 2009. The exhibition consists of nearly 20 installation works made specifically for this show from an assortment of everyday, consumer goods, such as dry cleaner hangers, trash bags, bottles of soda pop, fluorescent light blubs, Styrofoam packing peanuts, duck sauce packets, stacking lawn chairs, and PVC pipe. The works in the exhibition are on view throughout the museum.
Steinhilber’s works are intended to encourage viewers to rethink their experiences with and their expectations of these ubiquitous mass-produced consumer items. “By utilizing a visual language familiar to most of us, Steinhilber explores the beauty and the natural qualities of the mundane in a way that compels us to become more aware,” said BYU Museum of Art Contemporary Art Curator Jeff Lambson. “He uses these seemingly unexceptional items to examine the wonder that can be found all around us. His sculptures and intuitive installations express the essence of a seemingly simple object without manipulating the medium against its will. Instead, he takes advantage of the objects’ natural properties and illuminates their inherent traits through subtle twists and formations.”
The ephemeral nature of the objects Steinhilber uses to create his installations also allows him to explore more complex ideas about the cycles of life and the functioning of natural barriers or skins. One work in the exhibition, a mural made of party balloons, documents the life cycle of the balloons as well as the way in which the balloon itself functions as a barrier between the air in the balloon and the air in the gallery. “Dan purposely fills the balloons with air from the gallery space,” Lambson said. “Over time, the air in the balloons leak back into the gallery space, and the balloons forming the mural fall to the floor. The work creates a powerful dialogue about the natural cycles of life; the way things are born, grow and then die.”
Steinhilber’s work has recently been showcased in solo exhibitions at the Finesilver Gallery, Houston (2007); the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (2006); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2006); The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2006); Numark Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2005); GDS Galeria, San Jose, Costa Rica (2005); and the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2003).