Stephen Kaltenbach (1940 - )


Sculptor, painter, and conceptual artist Stephen Kaltenbach is best known for his enigmatic time capsules—sealed metal cases with inscriptions, sometimes hinting at their hidden contents, sometimes directing their use. Kaltenbach’s interest in the relationship between the visible and the concealed and the determination of when an artwork becomes itself questions basic assumptions about the way art operates. One series of time capsules is inscribed with directions that they should be opened before retrospectives of Kaltenbach’s work at various museums (Tate, MoMA, etc.), retrospectives as yet unplanned and which may never come. Others are to be opened after Kaltenbach’s death or at certain pre-determined future dates or possible events, such as World War III. Kaltenbach’s interest in what constitutes the vague categories of “before” and “after” unpredictable events challenges our notions of duration and temporality. And the unsealing of his time capsules automatically complicates what the work of art is, since part of their conceptual design includes mystery. One must ask: is the artwork the same after it has been opened, or is it changed in some fundamental way?

Kaltenbach’s work has been exhibited at the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was a 1979-80 Guggenheim fellow and his work is found in public collections around the world, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands.

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