"Steel Life," installation view
Courtesy of Michael Benevento

Rank 1: “Steel Life” at
Michael Benevento,
Los Angeles

August 14 2012
5:57 PM

The premise of “Steel Life” relies on a pun, but it’s no one-liner. Organized by NY-based Zak Kitnick, this self-aware group show lacks the conceit of a high concept. Instead eighteen artists present eighteen different treatments of the titular material: “steel brackets,” “steel pipes,” “sheet steel,” “welded steel,” “steel plates.” The show trades industrial monumentalism for domestic salvage, “forging a contemporary link with a romantic past,” to quote a popular housewares catalog. Ida Ekblad and Melvin Edwards offer rough, assemblage; Wade Guyton and Gedi Sibony prefer disembodied Marcel Breuer chairs and sprinkler systems, respectively. Heather Rowe’s architectural showstopper successfully pushes decor from pastiche to abstraction. “Steel Life” is most interesting when taken at face value. As a collection of still lifes these disparate works belong to a long tradition of thematizing familiar, commonplace objects. (Martine Syms)

Using a text taken from a Restoration Hardware catalog profiling a San Francisco blacksmith in lieu of press release, Kitnick sets immediately the tone of his exhibition: transforming something as common as steel into something edged with spirit. Already the concept tempted us, but the various artists’ brilliant use of steel in very high quality artworks finally convinced us to award this show the first place of our summer contest.