Press Release


March 2 - April 15, 2006
Reception: Thursday, March 2, 6 - 8:30

Thomas Erben is pleased to announce Die Heilige Familie (The Holy Family), selections from a body of large reverse paintings on windows by the German artist Blalla Hallmann (1941 - 1997). This is the artist's first exhibition in the US since his sojourn in San Francisco in the late '60s.

With highly polemical intent, Hallmann chose to populate archetypal Christian imagery with Disney characters cheeringly involved in scenes of blasphemous sexual acts, horrific cruelty, and mayhem. A vulva "Madonna and Child" is circled by penis headed magis; the Holy Trinity interpenetrates and a naked Mickey is nailed at arms, feet and genitalia to the cross under a Cardinal's watchful eyes with rows of soldiers in attendance. He gets under our skin using visually emotional strategies such as seductive primaries, a particularly endearing, seemingly naive style, and a mise en scene reminding us of the Renaissance originals.

In Hallmann's vision,we are all complicit and no one and nothing is safe: the military, the clergy, Christianity, the sanctity of motherhood and family, the almighty dollar and the evil, imperialistic United States. Saints are replaced by the icons of the entertainment industry and forlorn survivors are wading in radiation suits through fly infested swamps of defecation.

Hallmann's work has often been discussed in terms of his biography: Born 1941 in Quirl, Schlesien, his family was austed after World War II and moved through differenti refugee camps. His drawing abilities were recognized early on and privately fostered. At age 16 he studied for one year at the Art Acedemy in Duesseldorf, and was later on an honor student at the Academy in Nuernberg. In Northern California from 1967-69 he had two solo exhibitions and participated in group shows within the circle of Bruce Connor, Peter Saul, and Robert Crumb. A history of psychological imbalance, combined with malnutrition and drug use led to an acute paranoid hallucinatory psychosis for which he was hospitalized. Numerous treatments followed after returning to Germany and it was not until the late 70s that he regained full creatvity. Moving to Cologne in 1984 his work was exhibited with such important galleries as Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, and Produzentengalerie, Hamburg, within the boom of Neo Expressionism.

Cloaked in a lusty, highly skilled figurative style, it is Hallmann's ferocious visionary zeal and socially marginal position which brings his work closer to an outsider's sensibility. It invites discussions on the interdependences of destructive impulses and creativity, and to which degree boundaries of taste and societal norms can be tested on the grounds of art. Finally Hallmann's work explores to which degree truth can be articulated through art.

Blalla Hallmann