Saturday, January 12, 2013

De Staebler

Standing Man with Outstretched Arm, 1987

The ceramics and bronzes of Berkeley artist Stephen De Staebler (1933-2011) have been familiar to me and much admired since the seventies – with many examples on view in my own Northern California environment, both in public spaces and museums – even though De Staebler's reputation in the wider world still seems to be fairly slender. The De Young Museum gave him a rather cramped and unsatisfactory retrospective exhibition last year – to mark the occasion of his death – but for all the show's inadequacies, the catalog issued with it (published by University of California Press) was beautifully produced, as these sample images demonstrate.

Torso with Springing Hip, 1987

Walking Woman II, 1988

Winged Woman Walking VI, 1990

Yoke Winged Man, 1994

Winged Woman Walking X, 1995

Winged Figure with Three Legs, 2003

In 2005 De Staebler  was diagnosed with a form of Parkinson's disease and by 2006 was confined to a wheelchair. He hired sculptor Derek Weisberg as studio assistant and pursued a new working trajectory, directing the assemblage of preexisting fragments unearthed from his studio (what he called "the boneyard") as seen below.

Man with Broad Chest, 2010

Standing Woman Leading, 2010

Figure with Gray Shoulder, 2010

Boneyard fragments and sculptures in the artist's Berkeley studio, 2011