Lares and Penates: The Household Gods of East Berlin
photographs by Steven Seidenberg
October 3-28, 2014
Gallery hours: Wednesday, October 15 and 22, 4-6 pm
Saturday, October 18 and 25, 1-4 pm
And by appointment (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Finissage, Monday, October 27, 2014, 6-9pm
From the artist:
Devised to allow the easy clearing of debris from roof and balcony drainage pipes, the cast-iron fittings imaged in this exhibition have largely disappeared—replaced by plastic and aluminum plates throughout the East Berlin neighborhoods where they were once prevalent. Each totemic grimace of these decaying visages intimates the history and character of the Soviet era apartment blocks to which they are attached, both in growing state of disrepair and character of ornament unwittingly or illegally affixed. Some glare in eager anger at apathetic passersby, while others seem to hibernate in droll anticipation of an end that can’t come soon enough, but all declare a transit into utter dissolution otherwise unheralded by the denizens they’ve spent the last half century surveying. I seek in turn to witness and portend as witness the stages on the path towards the event horizon of complete elision, a performative decadence that transforms the commonplace of objects in abeyance into testament and sculptural abstraction.
In Roman religious practice, Lares and Penates were the deities of the household and domestic life. Lares were ancestral spirits to which everyday prayers and offerings were made, kept in the family shrine. Every family had its own Lar familiaris, beseeched to ensure familial health and longevity. Penates were the spirits of the pantry, taken out during meal times to preserve the family wealth and keep its members fed.
Composed of 40 x 60 inch prints, this second show of Berlin pipe images presents the totemic structure at a size more commonly associated with public art installation and religious idol alike, a monumentality in turn betrayed as a function of compositional distortion by divulging micro processes of manufacture and decay that are otherwise indiscernible. The tragic banality of the temple ruin revealed in the perversity of iterative archetype and optical deformity.
Steven Seidenberg is an artist living and working in San Francisco. Seidenberg’s work captures materials that are endangered in the urban landscape—whether through their impermanence, ethereality, threat of replacement, or redevelopment—documenting objects and structures while offering a nuanced reading of a moment in the life of the object. In some cases his reinterpretation is enhanced through repetition of form, in others, he focuses on small bits of paint, splashes and splatters, or trash pressed into crevices, highlighting unlikely groupings of texture, color, and function. He exposes the enduring qualities of his subjects, simultaneously recording the impact of natural and human action on their fragile form through shifts of depth of field and scale.
Seidenberg is also a writer and editor. Itch—a work of lyric, philosophical prose—was published in 2014 (RAW ArT Press). He has three chapbooks of verse, including Songs of Surrender (Gummi-Geliebter Verlag, Berlin, 2013), and most recently Null Set (Spooky Actions Books, 2014). He coedits the poetry journal pallaksch.pallaksch.