Inspired by art historic imagery, Bettina Sellmann creates “see-through versions” of Old Master paintings which appear as spaces of consciousness rather than recognizable depictions. Using watercolor on canvas, she builds up veil-like layers of pigment, the translucency of which exposes the vulnerability of the portrayed subjects. At the same time, this process highlights the inner psychology of the image. For example, in At Church, Sellmann’s gestural brushstrokes evoke the loose contours of a scene from Faust in which Gretchen seeks comfort in the church while tormented by the Evil Spirit. Dissolving into diaphanous pools of color that recall the soak-stain technique of color field painters, the scene reveals the psychological isolation and decay that lies beneath the surface.
Sellmann’s process is highly expressive and instinctual. She states, “My strategy is to strictly follow the painting-inherent impulse only, uninterrupted by superficial concepts, and bring the painting onto the canvas as immediately and directly as possible.” The end result of this intuitive process is a painting which seeks to mine the depths of existential human experiences.
Born in Munich, Germany, Bettina Sellmann lives and works in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe and is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NY. This will be her fourth solo show with the gallery.
North Room: Chris Hammerlein
Chris Hammerlein’s personal cosmology is revealed in a new series of finely modeled ceramic sculptures. Intimate in scale and saturated with multi-hued glazes, Hammerlein’s work is informed by myth, religion, and art history. He confronts eternal human dramas (i.e., love, sex, death), as well as the prospect of apocalypse and the endurance of art in the face of life’s brevity. In one work, a male and female figure locked in an urgent embrace stand upon a mound, gazing out with looks of horror and despair. In another, three nude female figures lounge within the crevices of a rocky outcropping like the seductive Sirens of Greek myth. Visual references to Meso-American Chac Mools and African and Papua New Guinean tribal art co-exist with the Romanesque sculptures of Autun Cathedral, Joachim Kaendler’s Meissen, and French Art Nouveau. Lyrical and at times jarring in their humor, these sculptures possess all the formal and emotional strengths of Hammerlein’s drawings, both in their directness and complexity.
Chris Hammerlein’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States, Europe, and Mexico including exhibitions at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico and Fundacion ICO, Madrid, Spain. His work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Walker Art Center, MN. This will be his fifth solo exhibition with the gallery.