Steve Keister

Steve Keister was born in Lancaster, PA in 1949. He received his B.F.A. from Tyler School of Art in 1971. After receiving his M.F.A. from Tyler School of Art in Rome in 1973 he moved to New York City. He started working at the Whitney Museum, first at the sales desk, later doing in-house signage. The Whitney curators Marcia Tucker and Patterson Sims promoted his work, and soon he was exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions, including the 1981 Whitney Biennial. Since then he has received several grants, including a Gottlieb Foundation Grant in 1999 and a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2000. He has exhibited his work in prestigious galleries including BlumHelman Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, Bill Maynes Gallery, Feature and Mitchell Algus Gallery. His work is included in over 60 museum collections.

Artist Statement

Keister has been exhibiting his work since the mid-seventies. His sculptural investigations have led him to experiment with many materials, processes and techniques. His consistent focus has been on mathematically conceived form, usually geometric but also topological. Color is then deployed to interpret the form. Since the mid-nineties these formal concerns have been overlaid with visual and mythological influences from ancient Mesoamerica.

From the late seventies through the early eighties he made angular planiform constructions from plywood, painted and clad. In mid-eighties he stretched spandex into hyperbolic parabolas, rigidified with epoxy resin and fiberglass. In the early nineties he did experiments in thermoplastics. He built a hinged contraption hooked to an air compressor and designed templates for irregular shapes. Next, he heated plexiglass in the oven (at 350 degrees it becomes floppy), and quickly inserted it into the contraption. The compressed air instantly inflated the shape into a topologically perfect form. These thermoplastic pieces were never exhibited. 

By the mid-nineties he had begun traveling in Mexico with Jill Levine and they both became excited and inspired by Pre-Colombian culture. Meanwhile the sidewalks of New York were strewn with Styrofoam cartons that had contained computers and printers. He noticed a visual and structural resemblance to Mesoamerican relief imagery. This connection led me to learn casting and mold-making techniques.

He selected the cartons that most explicitly promoted this perceived connection, and adopted the “Glyph” configuration as his personal emblem. He cast the positive form in colored resin, and embedded plaster casts of the negative version of the form into gallery walls. It was at this stage that he began casting with ceramic slip from plaster molds. Before long, he was collaborating with Mary Heilmann on ceramic projects involving brightly colored glazes.

In 2019 he made molds from the thermo-formed plexi pieces from the nineties, made slip-casts and glazed them. This resulted in the current “Blister” series. The novelty of the sleek curvature of the forms suggests a kind of Pop Minimalism.

Most recently (in 2021) he has applied the same logic to the Glyph configurations, creating glazed monochrome versions. These relief compositions retain an echo of the Mexican reliefs while remaining resolutely abstract. The connection is compounded by the saturated glaze color.



Born 1949, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

1971  B.F.A. Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia and Rome
1973  M.F.A. Tyler School of Art, Rome

Solo Exhibitions:
2017  Post-Colombian, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York City
2016 Steve Keister: Recent Work, Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
2015  USOs: 1978-1981, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York
2010  Ceramic Interactions: Steve Keister, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology
          and Anthropology, Philadelphia
2007  Steve Keister: Tollan, Feature, Inc., New York
2006   Shapesifter, Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo, New York
2002  The Shape of Time, Bill Maynes Gallery
1999  Bill Maynes Gallery
1998  Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University, New York
1996  Interstitial Archaeology, Bill Maynes Contemporary Art
1991  Nancy Lurie Gallery, Chicago
1990  Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo
1989  Solo Gallery, New York
1988  BlumHelman Warehouse, New York
1986  BlumHelman Warehouse, New York
1984  Carol Taylor Gallery, Dallas
        Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne
1983  Larry Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
1982  BlumHelman Warehouse, New York
1981  BlumHelman Warehouse, New York
1980  Options 5-Steve Keister, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
          Texas Gallery, Houston
1979  Nancy Lurie Gallery, Chicago
1978  Pam Adler Gallery, New York
1977  Nancy Lurie Gallery, Chicago

Selected Group Exhibitions:
2020 Acquired on EBay (and other surrogate sources), Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York City
2019 Norikabe, Tetsuo’s Garage, Nikko, Japan
2019 Masterpieces, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York City
2019 New York Gallery Open, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York City
2019 25 Years Part 2- Abstraction, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York City
2017 Works on Paper 1813 - 2016, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York City
2016 Paradise: underground culture in NYC 1978 - 84, New York City
       Ways and Means, 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery, New York City
       The Voyage of the Beagle, Radiator Gallery, Long Island City, New York
2015 The Shadow Is Taken, Algus Greenspon Gallery, New York
2014 Keister Lee Levine, Ille Arts, Amagansett
2014 Feral Objects, Creon Gallery, New York
2013 The Stairs, Algus Greenspon Gallery, New York
2013 Fifty Works for Fifty States: Works from the Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
2012 Pillow Talk, Ille Arts, Amagansett
2012 Fifty Works for Fifty States: Works from the Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2011 Paul Clay, Salon 94 Bowery, New York
2011 Building Blocks, The Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
2011 50 Works-50 States, The Vogel Collection, The High Museum, Atlanta
2010 Teacup Show, Rose Burlingham Gallery, New York
2010  Fifty Works for Fifty States: Works from the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection,
        Birmingham Museum of Art
2010  New Work, Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo
2009  Fifty Works for Fifty States: Works from the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection,    
        Milwaukee Art Museum
2009  Objects, Furniture and Patterns, Art Since the Summer of ’69, New York
2009  Modern and Contemporary Ceramics, A. M. Richard Fine Art, Brooklyn
2009  Commune, Black & White Gallery, New York
2009  Mary's Choice, 303 Gallery, New York
2008  Collected Thoughts: Works from the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection, Indianapolis Museum of Art
2008  What Makes a Face, Salena Gallery, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus
2008  Angles in America, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
2008  Present Tense, Spanierman Modern, New York
2008  styrofoam, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
2007  Canal Street, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York
2007  Corpse of Time, Galeria Janet Kurnatowski, Brooklyn
2006  Two Friends And So On, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
2004  Faculty Exhibition, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey
2003  Travelers Islip Art Museum, Long Island, New York
2001  Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia
        Snapshot, Contemporary Museum, Baltimore
1998  A.R.T., Vedanta Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
        Glyphriff 2, New York Art Exchange
1997  Art Resources Transfer, Inc., New York
        TIAA/Cref, New York
        Across Lines, The Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
        Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica
        At the Threshold of the Visible: Minuscule and Small-Scale Art, 1964-1996,
        Independent Curators Incorporated (travels to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University;
        Meyerhoff Galleries, Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore;Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto;
        Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario; Virginia Beach Center for the Arts,
        Virginia; Santa Monica Museum of Art, California; Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta
1996  30th Anniversary Temple Rome Exhibition, Italy
        The Flying Saucer Project, Pat Hearn Gallery, New York
        Thing, Deven Golden Fine Art Ltd., New York
        In On Through, Morris Healy Gallery, New York
1995  NYU Faculty Exhibition, Apex Art, New York
        Tinkering & Delving, E.S. Vandam Gallery, New York
        Altered and Irrational: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
1994  Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo
        In Context: What is it about modern life that makes it so . . ., New York University
1993  Modern Post-Modern, SUNY Plattsburgh Art Museum, New York
        Steve Keister & Leslie Kamen, Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York
        Nine Sculptors and their Printer, Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston
1992  Zero Gravity, Henry DeFord 3rd Gallery, Citicorp Court Square, Long Island City
        A Marked Difference, Maatschappij Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam
        Celebrating Art & Architecture, LaSalle Partners, NationsBank Plaza, Charlotte, North Carolina
1991  Out of Site, Institute for Art and Urban Resources, P.S.1, Long Island City, New York
        Working on Edge, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus
        Fabricators, Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York
        Steve Keister and Carter Hodgkins, Berland Hall Gallery, New York
1990  Newer Sculpture, Charles Cowles Gallery, New York
        Painted Metal Sculpture, The Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York
1988  A Drawing Show, Cable Gallery, New York
        Skulpturen Republik, Kunstraum Wien, Vienna
1987  From Object to Image, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
1986  The Barry Lowen Collection, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
1984  Painting and Sculpture Biennial, Indianapolis Museum of Art
1981  Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1979  Eight Sculptors, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo

2000  John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship
1999  Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant
1988  National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
1986  Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship

Public Collections:
CCS Bard Hessel Museum, New York
Academy Art Museum, Easton, Maryland
Akron Art Museum, Akron
The Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo
The Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock
Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin
Birmingham Museum of Art
Boise Art Museum
Castellani Art Museum, Niagra University, New York
Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina
The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts
The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover
Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia
IMA - Indianapolis Museum of Art
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha
The Lannan Foundation, Los Angeles
Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
Miami Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The National Gallery, Washington, D. C.
New Mexico Museum of Art, Musem of New Mexico, Santa Fe
The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Utah State university, Logan
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Phoenix Art Museum
Plains Art Museum, Fargo
Portland Art Museum, Oregon
Portland Museum of Art, Maine
The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence
Rodert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, Burlington
Saint Louis Art Museum
South Dakota Art Museum, South Dakota State University, Brookings
The Speed Art Museum, Louisville
Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence
SUNY Plattsburgh Art Museum, New York
University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks
The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor
University Museum, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Weatherspoon Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Yale Universit Art Gallery, New Haven
Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings