The publication Stephan Balkenhol: Über Menschen und Skulpturen (About Men and Sculpture) was published in conjunction with the exhibition Stephan Balkenhol that took place at Witte de With (December 12, 1992 – January 17, 1993).

With the work of Stephan Balkenhol, art enters trusted terrain. It is the terrain of mimesis and in particular that of depiction of people, the body, the figure, a face. It is trusted in a sense that goes beyond reassuring, as ‘trust’ in the visual arts means giving art the freedom to be itself. The sculptures of Stephan Balkenhol are not about recognizing a particular subject; they are about the recognition of the freedom of art. This freedom is not self-evident; each time it must be found, made, and shown anew. Is this perhaps the reason why Balkenhol’s images, his bodies, figures and faces, appear to be similar but are nevertheless different?

Balkenhol’s art is about difference; about the differences between the institutions of the world and of art; about the differences between what is communal and what is specific. His figures speak the hermetic language of every work of art without resisting art’s communicative condition. His oeuvre is like building a bridge between the hypothesis of a work of art and its ultimate significance. Perhaps this is what the seeming ingenuousness of Balkenhol’s imagination refers to: he observes art and, simultaneously, he observes the world.

The publication Stephan Balkenhol: Über Menschen und Skulpturen (About Men and Sculpture) stands out because it reaches beyond the isolation of the exhibition. It returns to the process of bringing a work of art into existence, and it shows the vacillations as well as the contemplations of the artist in search of his art. This book, consequently, could only be made in close collaboration with Stephan Balkenhol. The images in it are photographs, which he has taken, collected and documented over the years. Those images tell a story of differences, but also of similarities.

This had also been a starting point for two conversations which Stephan Balkenhol, with this publication in mind, had with his colleagues, the German artists Thomas Schütte and Ulrich Rückriem. Their remarks are complemented by the British art historian James Lingwood’s essay, “Reluctant Monuments”, which seeks the whys and wherefores for Stephan Balkenhol’s lonesome, solitary standing figures. And, just as the German fairy tale “Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer” tells of the baseless fear of the giant, the Canadian artist Jeff Wall describes in his essay, “An Outline for a Context of Stephan Balkenhol’s Work”, the unfounded hegemony of the fragmented in the visual arts.