Mingling the roles of curator, anthropologist, window display artist and consumer, Haim Steinbach has created a brilliantly witty niche for himself. His pieces involve the canny juxtaposition of cultural artifacts and/or mass-produced goods on wedge-shaped shelving attached to the wall. These works deal in part with the notion of display: the removal of items from their original context and their recombination for reasons having to do with prevailing notions of style and value, and pride of ownership. The peculiarly inflated status of "collectibles" in our era seems very much to the point.
In "beep honk toot no. 1," a battalion of six shiny, high tech teapots line up on a mirrored shelf as if waiting to take orders from three tall, gleaming metal trash cans. Lowly functional objects elevated by the magic wand of designer chic, these items now incorporate a faintly absurd hierarchy of their own. The reflective, distorting shelving itself seems intended to incorporate--in distorted form--the larger scope of the collector's taste, as displayed elsewhere in the room.
In "Untitled (hobby horse, cookie jar)," the New York artist juxtaposes--on a mossy green shelf--a gently weathered, presumably antique child's toy with a kitschy ceramic cookie jar in the shape of a stagecoach. On the one hand, the hobby horse offers a genuine aura of Americana and nostalgia, but the cookie jar represents an impotent attempt to evoke the same response. Yet both objects might be seen as frankly "authentic" creations of the same culture or even--in these post-Warhol-auction days--linked as items whose market value has been established by major sales. The possibilities are rich, rich, rich. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to June 30.)