Iris Eichenberg | Topoanalysis / Wer Bin Ich?: Detroit

September 23 - November 4, 2023
Installation Views
Press release

David Klein Gallery is pleased to present Topoanalysis/Wer bin ich? an exhibition of new work by Iris Eichenberg. This is Eichenberg’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. A reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, September 23rd from 5– 8 PM at David Klein Gallery, 1520 Washington Blvd, Detroit.  A conversation with the artist will take place at the gallery on Saturday, October 21st.


Iris Eichenberg, often described as a “post-disciplinary artist,” works in a variety of mediums, selecting materials whose properties are best suited to explore a given concept or sensibility. The material itself is central to her process. Trained as a metalsmith, Eichenberg’s work ranges from conceptual jewelry, sculptural objects, textiles, pottery, and large-scale installations through which she examines identity, gender, heritage, domesticity, the body, and social justice issues.


“I believe objects and materials have a life, and to engage with that life, with the past, is essential for the energy I find I'm looking for."


The exhibition title refers to the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s concept of topoanalysis, introduced in his 1958 book "The Poetics of Space." Defined as "the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives," topoanalysis postulates that places, such as houses, often become sites of intimacy and attachment, leading to the experience of nostalgia when revisited or remembered. Memories of the house and its various parts are entwined with the present, an essential part of our ongoing current experience.


Born in Germany, educated in Amsterdam and having lived across the globe before moving to Michigan, the idea of “home” and the seemingly endless endeavor of “settling down” have always been of interest to Eichenberg. Topoanalysis/Wer bin ich? explores themes of home, preciousness, value, and the histories that objects carry within themselves. The house is a central motif repeated throughout this new body of work, from a simple line drawing to an immersive fabric installation and multiple wooden house sculptures made from a single walnut tree.  The walnut tree has its own compelling story: It lived in the garden of a friend for 70 years until it was irrevocably damaged and marked for removal. Offered by the friend to Eichenberg as a gift, the tree was cut down and, with the use of a mobile wood mill, processed by the artist herself on-site into lengths of wood that were then used to build the houses and other wooden objects for this exhibition.


"How can I overcome the first associations with the material? How can I take a material and transform it, in the sense that it becomes? That process of becoming is my favorite spot… I’m a great believer in the finishedness of the unfinished."


Chinese silk, old rugs, clothing, tea towels from her grandparents, her mother’s embroidery, potato sacks, wedding rings, and other materials used in this new body of work don’t offer a linear narrative but are instead recognized as captivating pieces of history. To Eichenberg, both objects and houses are embedded with traces of their past which leave behind spirited imprints. A linen structure that collapses in on itself, clay pots that slump inward toward each other, and fragmented fabric “portraits” are all representative of the process of becoming and transforming, a concept that is central to Eichenberg’s artistic practice.


“Physicality is something I’m exploring through behavior qualities, for example the vessels which are all leaning toward each other. I’m listening to the conversation objects have with each other and how you can change those conversations by introducing different objects. I’m really interested in the codependency of things that surround me... The way we engage with objects is not just something we do, it’s something they do with each other.”


Iris Eichenberg is the Artist in Residence and Head of the Metalsmithing Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI. She is a graduate of Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Eichenberg’s work is in the collections of multiple museums including The Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY; The Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX; The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France.  She has exhibited her work in the U.S., Europe, South America, and Asia. Eichenberg lives and works in Bloomfield Hills, MI.


Installation photos by PD Rearick.