April 29 - May 30, 2009
Stephen Wirtz Gallery presents an exhibition of new objects and installation-based works by Ulrike Palmbach.
Palmbach is known for creating uncanny, psychologically charged objects using soft materials, such as surplus
army blankets, muslin, and beeswax. With this exhibition, she has expanded her repertoire of materials with
sculptures painstakingly carved from solid blocks of wood. These vaguely figurative objects seemingly exist in
states of lethargic flux and inertia, defying the unyielding qualities of the material from which they were created.
Other objects in the exhibition reference more familiar forms—sewn fabric objects that resemble cardboard
containers and rolled up newspapers. Taken together, these works present a fable for uncertain times, a
commentary on the particular burden of accumulation and the anxiety that comes from never having enough.
The fabulist nature of the exhibition is driven home in a new work titled “The Big Bad Wolf.” This piece depicts
a larger than life shadow puppet of a wolf, which appears to be projected onto an ordinary blanket. Referencing
instinctual fears of becoming prey, it can be seen as representing an omnipresent evil—the metaphorical “wolf at
the door”—a presence that is as illusive as it is threatening, one perhaps exaggerated by fear and paranoia.
Palmbach’s recent works spring from an inner world, existing in a languid state of transition. The wood objects
are organ-like, familiar yet non-specific. They are “boneless,” without supportive inner structures, and seemingly
yield to their own gravity. They can be seen as expressions of a psychological state made dough-like, heavy and
passive in the face of uncertainty.
Although many of these objects seem to be made from soft materials, they are not. Initially a temporary version
of the form is created from modeling clay, a non-permanent malleable material that is easily shaped by whimsy in
this spontaneous and playful stage of the work process. At a certain point, this experimental state of “play” is left
behind and the object is translated into a permanent solid shape. The form is carved out of wood, mocking its
previous state. This transition from one material to another enables the realization of the unconscious as a
Ulrike Palmbach was born in Sindelfingen, Germany, and received her BFA from San Francisco Art Institute. In
2008, Palmbach’s work was included in “Comme des betes,” at Musee cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne,
Switzerland, and in 2005-2006 her work was selected T-Turin Triennial Threemuseums: The Pantagruel
Syndrome, an exhibition of international artists curated by Francesco Bonami and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.