Exposition Art Blog: Stephen De Staebler

Stephen De Staebler

Stephen De Staebler (March 24, 1933 – May 13, 2011) was an internationally celebrated American sculptor, best recognized for his work in clay and bronze. Totemic and fragmented in form, De Staebler's figurative sculptures call forth the many contingencies of the human condition, such as resiliency and fragility, growth and decay, earthly boundedness and the possibility for spiritual transcendence. An important figure in the California Clay Movement, he is credited with "sustaining the figurative tradition in post-World War II decades when the relevance and even possibility of embracing the human figure seemed problematic at best."De Staebler's ceramic sculptures harness the inherent qualities of clay, his primary medium during the earlier years of his career, to create raw, fragmented indexes of the body, the landscape and even the landscape as body. The equally organic and preternatural qualities of his forms evoke the tenuous relationships between earthly monumentality and spiritual transcendence, fragmentation and wholeness, and fragility and strength. This tendency for slippage serves a productive purpose, allowing the works to inhabit the discursive space between more prescriptive categories. Seated Figure with Yellow Flame, in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is a typical example of his anthropomorphic works. In the late 1970s, De Staebler turned to bronze after an injury temporarily curtailed his ability to create large-scale, ceramic figure columns. His interest in such a classical art historical medium might strike as counterintuitive, however De Staebler adapted the casting process to reflect his more deconstructed, liberated approach to art-making. Wikipedia

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