Best Use of an Electric Lawnmower

Dan Steinhilber
Trinidad’s G Fine Art might never recover from Dan Steinhilber’s fall 2010 solo exhibition, “Mixed Bag,” during which the gallery was filled with more plastic bags than the Anacostia River. Steinhilber, who relishes in soy-sauce packets, shampoo bottles, and other colorful, throwaway elements of consumer culture, stopped in at the gallery on a near-daily basis to chop up thousands of plastic bags. (He used an electric lawnmower to keep from suffocating everyone.) From taupe to black, from Target to takeout, plastic bags ground into confetti settled in piles around the exhibition space, which Steinhilber raked and gathered. Using an electric griddle fashioned with a handle, he then ironed greenhouse plastic sheeting over the litter, melting colorful clippings onto the sheets. The pieces had the texture of a piñata: large-scale abstractions that served as an almost photographic snapshot of the day’s plastic-bag clippings. If the works served as documentation, then the lawnmower was at the center of Steinhilber’s performance—one in which he invited viewers to help him with every stage of the process. Helping out felt, in a way, like giving him a hand in cleaning up the huge mess he made.
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