Haim Steinbach. supremely black. 1985. Plastic laminated wood shelf, ceramic pitchers, and cardboard detergent boxes, 29 × 66 × 13" (73.7 × 167.6 × 33 cm). Hillman Periodicals Fund (by exchange) © Haim Steinbach.

“The way I arrange objects in one line is like the way that we arrange words in a sentence.”

Haim Steinbach

Haim Steinbach has said his work is “about vernacular, which is a common form of language: things that we make, express and produce.” Steinbach collects and exhibits existing objects—found, bought, gifted—in works he calls “displays.” Working in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp and other artists who have elevated “readymade” mass-produced objects to the status of art, Steinbach also explores the psychological and cultural aspects of collecting and consuming objects.

Steinbach was born in Rehovot, Israel, and moved to New York in 1957. Active in the East Village art scene, he participated in groups such as Fashion Moda, based around an alternative art space in the South Bronx, and Group Material, an artist-run collaborative exhibiting in apartments, subways, and retail spaces. Steinbach made paintings until the mid-1970s, then began using linoleum to make a series called Linopanel. In the late 1970s, he began creating installations, collecting and arranging objects in his first Displays. Display #7 was made from wallpaper strips applied to a wall and found objects arranged on shelves. In 1983–84, he introduced a standardized triangle shelf and continued presenting commercial objects in works like supremely black.

Since 1990, Steinbach has also created objects installed on walls, and introduced cabinets and drawings into his exhibitions. He frequently displays found snippets of text, maintaining the same typeface and layout but enlarging the entire image. He considers these phrases, like the one featured in his work hello again—acquired on the occasion of the Museum’s 2019 reopening—to be a part of his collection of objects. Steinbach has said that he has “a collection of statements, mostly slogans, from pages in magazines, books, and other general printed matter. What interests me is the play in which language becomes an image and image becomes language.”

Note: Opening quote is from “Haim Steinbach by Peter Schwenger,” BOMB magazine, October 1, 2012. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/haim-steinbach/.

Lydia Mullin, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, 2019


2 works online



  • Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 172 pages

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